For nine months, a mother-to-be is the centre of a family’s attention and is waited upon. With the birth of a new baby, the focus of the entire family shifts to the little one. In the first few days after the baby’s birth, a new mother needs a lot of care and attention. In most homes, the focus is on getting her diet right. Issues related to reproductive health and breastfeeding, remain largely neglected in Indian homes due to embarrassment or since they are considered taboo.
The first connection between a mother and her child is through breastfeeding. Most often, doctors and elder women in the family fail to counsel the mother-to-be on the challenges she might face while breastfeeding and think it will come to all mothers naturally. However, some mothers face considerable challenges while breastfeeding, with latching and breast engorgement being the major ones. Here we will attempt to answer all your questions about breast engorgement.
What is Breasts Engorgement?
Once a baby is born, within the first week, a mother’s milk starts to come in i.e the milk production in her breasts increases to meet the increasing feeding requirements of the baby. Many times this increased supply causes the breasts to fill up with milk causing them to temporarily harden and the nipples to expand and flatten. This is called engorgement of breasts.
Also Read: A step by step guide on breastfeeding for new moms
What does an engorged breasts feel like?
Engorged breasts are swollen and hard. The skin of engorged breasts may appear stretched-out and shiny. The breasts become swollen and tender. You may also experience a throbbing pain which may extend all the way till the armpits. The areole may become flat and hard (instead of the usual soft) and may expand and increase in size.
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What causes breasts engorgement?
Engorgement is caused when breasts are uncomfortably full of milk. This can be caused by:
- Missed feedings or a long gap between feeds.
- Incorrect latching which causes milk to be left behind and accumulate in breasts.
- If the baby suddenly starts feeding less than usual due to any illness or because he has started solid food.
- It also commonly occurs while mothers try to wean their children off breastfeeding suddenly instead of gradually.
- Women with breast implants are more prone to breast engorgement.
- If the milk production is higher than what the baby needs.
10 Best Ways to Prevent and Treat the Breasts Engorgement:
The most effective way to relieve the swelling in engorged breasts is by nursing your baby. Feed a minimum of 8 times in 24 hours i.e once every 2-3 hours to prevent the accumulation of milk in breasts.
Also Read: Your Bra Guide during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
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Some women may need to rely on pumping for milk extraction. Do remember to pump only as much as necessary because the more you pump, the more milk is produced which in turn could lead to breast engorgement.
#3. Empty breasts completely
Make sure your baby feeds from one breast completely before switching to the other one to prevent leftover milk accumulation. A baby will take between 10-15 minutes to completely feed from one side and you will know it is time to switch sides when the sucking slows down and you don’t hear the baby swallowing. In case your baby has trouble latching on, gentle squeeze out just enough milk using your fingers or a pump to soften the areola and help the baby latch on.
#4. Warm compress
Apply a warm compress like a warm towel over the breasts for a couple of minutes before nursing to soften breasts and help with the milk flow.
While feeding, gently massage any lumpy areas of the breasts with your fingers. This will help to drain milk from those hardened areas.
#6. Cold compress
Apply a cold compress to your breasts after feeding. It could be a cold towel or even a bag of frozen peas/vegetables from the refrigerator. This provides great relief from engorgement pain.
Do not neglect to buy a well fitted nursing bra. Lack of support and unnecessary movement of engorged breasts can make them even more painful.
#8. Cabbage Leaves
It is widely believed that cold cabbage leaves are very effective in relieving breast engorgement. Place a few cold cabbage leaves inside your bra only till engorgement is reduced. Do this up to 3 times a day, and remove the cabbage leaves once you experience relief.
Also Read: These 8 Indian Kitchen Foods Can Help Breastfeeding Moms
In case your breast engorgement is a result of weaning, it is important to remember that weaning is a gradual process. Gradually reduce the number of feeds of your baby which will give your baby and your breasts a chance to adjust. Your breasts will gradually start reducing their milk supply to meet your baby’s reduced needs. Abrupt weaning could result in engorged, painful breasts.
#10. Pain relief
In case you find the engorged breasts too painful, you could take a dose of pain relief medication in consultation with your health-care provider. You could also consult with your doctor about a safe ointment to be applied to sore nipples.
Engorgement of breasts is one of the most common breastfeeding related problems new mothers experience. It usually happens in the initial days of breastfeeding when the milk demand-supply is yet to be established. Usually, it resolves once the demand-supply is established. However, if the engorgement does not resolve within 1-2 days, consult your doctor immediately as it can lead to a severe infection called Mastitis. Remember, that this is only temporary and engorgement is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Do not hesitate to seek out help when necessary.
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