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Everything About Engorgement of Breast

What is Breast Engorgement?

Breast engorgement meaning usually refers to the swelling and enlargement of the breasts due to an increase in blood flow, milk production, and fluid accumulation.

It commonly occurs during pregnancy and after delivery, but there are some differences between the two stages. 

We have listed down the difference for your better understanding-

Breast Engorgement during Pregnancy 

Breast engorgement during pregnancy is primarily caused by hormonal changes.

Breast Engorgement during Pregnancy

The body prepares for lactation by increasing blood flow to the breasts and stimulating the growth of milk ducts. As a result, the breasts become larger, more sensitive, and may feel fuller. This is often accompanied by tenderness and some discomfort. However, milk production usually doesn't begin until after delivery.

Tip: Always breastfeed  your kid as breastfeeding is also IMPORTANT!

Breast Engorgement After Delivery

Breast engorgement after delivery takes on a different nature than the one before delivery. 

Breast Engorgement after Pregnancy 

Once the baby is born, the hormone prolactin stimulates the production of milk. The breasts may become even more swollen and firm as milk production begins in response to the baby's demand. The engorgement can cause significant discomfort, pain, and difficulty in breastfeeding. The breasts may feel warm to the touch, and the skin might appear shiny and stretched.

Related: Yoga for maintaining breast health

Breast Engorgement Signs and Symptoms

There are many evident signs of engorgement of breasts but a few people might consider that it’s a normal breastfeeding reaction. That is why we have mentioned all the breast engorgement signs and symptoms for clarity-

  • Swelling of the breasts
  • Tenderness and discomfort
  • Firmness and hardness
  • Warmth and redness
  • Painful breastfeeding
  • Reduced milk flow
  • General discomfort or malaise
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Shiny and stretched skin
  • Difficulty latching or breastfeeding

Related: Try these proven breastfeeding tips for mother

Breast Engorgement Causes

Here are some causes behind the engorgement of breasts-

  • Hormonal changes
  • Increased blood flow to the breasts
  • Stimulation of milk ducts
  • Onset of lactation
  • Engorgement in previous pregnancies
  • Rapid weaning or abrupt changes in breastfeeding frequency
  • Infrequent or irregular pumping
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Retained placental tissue
  • Breast infection (mastitis)
  • Medications affecting the milk supply
  • Breast surgery or trauma
  • Breastfeeding difficulties or latch problems
  • Accumulation of milk
  • Baby's feeding patterns
  • Delayed or missed breastfeeding sessions
  • Insufficient milk removal
  • Poor breastfeeding technique
  • Tight-fitting bras or clothing
  • Breastfeeding after a long break

Breast Engorgement Prevention: Preventive Tips

Breast engorgement is quite commonly experienced among new mothers and it is usually manageable if one takes all the necessary precautions and prevention measures.

We have listed down some excellent breast engorgement home remedies and breast engorgement prevention methods that work, have a look-

  • Breastfeed your baby frequently and ensure a proper latch to encourage milk flow and prevent milk from accumulating in the breasts. Try a few breastfeeding techniques for easy latching.
  • To alleviate engorgement and assist with milk expression, consider using a breast pump or expressing milk manually.
  • Respond to your baby's hunger cues and feed on demand, rather than adhering to strict schedules, to regulate milk production and prevent excessive breast fullness.
  • Enhance blood and milk flow by applying warm compresses or taking a warm shower before breastfeeding.
  • Avoid tight-fitting bras or clothing that restrict milk flow, opting for comfortable, loose-fitting attire and supportive bras. You can buy nursing clothes online at Newmi Care as these are specially meant for post-delivery.
  • Stimulate milk flow and prevent engorgement by gently massaging the breasts in a circular motion before and during breastfeeding.
  • Maintain a regular breastfeeding routine by avoiding prolonged gaps between feeding sessions, even if it means waking the baby for a feeding.
  • Alternate between breasts during each feeding session to promote milk production and prevent one breast from becoming overly full.
  • Delay the use of pacifiers or bottles until breastfeeding is established to ensure effective breast drainage and prevent engorgement.
  • Reduce swelling and discomfort by applying cold compresses, such as cold packs or wrapped cabbage leaves, for about 15 minutes before breastfeeding.
  • Cold green tea bags can also be used as a soothing option to reduce swelling.

Breast Engorgement Treatment Methods

Breast engorgement treatment methods depend majorly on whether or not you are breastfeeding as a hungry baby is considered the best treatment. It is so because the more frequently you empty your breasts, the better your condition will become. 

However, here are some engorgement breastfeeding tips that will help you in this condition-

  • Breastfeed frequently, ideally every 2-3 hours.
  • Before nursing, apply warm compresses to enhance milk flow.
  • After feeding, apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.
  • Ensure a proper latch and positioning to prevent further engorgement.
  • Gently massage your breasts to encourage milk flow.
  • Find relief by taking warm showers or using warm towels.
  • If approved, consider over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen.
  • If your baby struggles to nurse, use a breast pump to relieve pressure.
  • Soothe cracked nipples with lanolin cream or olive oil.
  • Optimize drainage by using a breastfeeding pillow
  •  or positioning your baby appropriately.
  • Seek assistance from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group.
  • Reduce swelling by using a cold gel pack or ice packs wrapped in cloth.
  • Maintain balanced milk production by tracking feeding times and alternating breasts.
  • To relieve engorgement, consider a manual or electric breast pump.
  • Use breast shells or nipple shields temporarily to alleviate pressure.
  • During feeding, try gentle breast compression to improve milk flow.
  • Consult a healthcare provider if engorgement persists or worsens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Engorgement of breasts is very common and even more common are the doubts around it. That is why we have listed down a few of the most common doubts among new mothers with their answers. Have a look-

  • Is breast engorgement normal?

Yes, breast engorgement is a common and normal occurrence in the early days of breastfeeding when breasts become overly full and swollen with milk.

  • How long will engorgement last?

The duration of breast engorgement can vary, but typically it lasts for about 2 to 3 days as your body adjusts to your baby's feeding needs and establishes a regular milk supply.

Summing Up

In summary, the swelling and expansion of the breasts both during pregnancy and after birth are collectively referred to as breast engorgement. And, postpartum engorgement happens as a result of milk production, whereas hormonal changes predominantly cause pregnancy engorgement. 

Hence, for breastfeeding to be successful, engorgement management is essential. This requires using a variety of strategies to ease discomfort and encourage milk flow.

If you feel like the situation is out of control and you want some advice with breastfeeding or lactation consultation or you want to consult a doctor, Newmi Care is here for you. Feel free to get in touch with us.

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