Common Breastfeeding Problems: Engorgement

Between 24 and 72 hours after birth your milk will come in, enlarging and filling your breasts. For most mums if their baby is feeding well and frequently the breasts will become fuller and heavier but probably won’t become engorged.

Engorgement is when more milk is produced than their breasts can hold and it makes the breasts hard like rocks, and the nipples often become flattened too. This is only temporary and often lasts 24- 48 hours but it can be painful and uncomfortable. It can also make it more difficult for baby to attach on to the breast and nipple too.

Here are some tips to help you cope if your breasts are feeling full and hard:

  • Ensure you are feeding your baby between eight -12 times every 24 hours
  • Use warmth at the breast just prior to a feed to help with milk flow
  • Ensure baby has good attachment at the breast
  • Try feeding in different positions – ask your midwife to assist you with this
  • Express some milk before a breastfeed to soften the areola and nipple
  • Massage your breast gently whilst feeding to help improve the flow of milk
  • If your breasts are still firm and very full after baby has breastfed then express again until your breasts feel comfortable.
  • If your baby cannot breastfeed then express your milk eight times every 24 hours, until your breasts feel comfortable and softer.
  • Keep baby in skin to skin contact as long as possible throughout the day. By keeping baby close to you and on your chest it will make sure baby feeds frequently, which helps prevent prolonged engorgement.
  • Place cold or frozen face washers on your breasts after feeds or expressing, to reduce inflammation and help with the discomfort.
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