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So you no longer have a watermelon in your belly. But, you might feel like you have two sitting on your chest. After birth, engorged breasts are super common, mama, especially as your breast milk comes in. And while you might feel heavy and a bit uncomfortable, you can still have a completely normal breastfeeding experience.
Swollen breasts can affect your baby’s ability to get a good latch. There are things you can do to make the most of each breastfeeding session, however. Here, we’ll go over what you can expect and some tips for getting your baby to latch well even when your breasts are overly full.
According to the University of Michigan Health, breast engorgement occurs when your breasts become painfully overfull of milk. There are several symptoms you may notice if your breasts are engorged. First, your breasts may feel heavier than usual. They may also feel firmer.
Additionally, you may notice that your breasts are painful, especially when you touch them. And you can experience a low-grade fever of around 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Although engorged breasts are painful, another symptom can directly affect your baby’s ability to latch. Engorged breasts often cause your nipples to flatten due to swelling. This can make it difficult for your baby to latch on when it’s feeding time.
Typically, engorged breasts occur because they’re making more milk than your baby is drinking. This may be because you’re switching your breastfeeding routine or your baby is eating less than normal.
Engorged breasts can also happen right after birth when your milk first starts to come in. According to the University of Michigan Health, “early breast fullness is from the milk you make and extra blood and fluids in your breasts. Your body uses the extra fluids to make more breast milk for your baby.”
As we mentioned above, it’s common to experience engorged breasts right after birth. First, your breasts will make colostrum, thick and nutrient-rich milk for your baby. Then, your milk will come in approximately 3-5 days after the birth of your baby. This is a common time for engorgement.
It’s important to know that breast engorgement can happen at any time during the breastfeeding journey, such as when you make a change in your breastfeeding or pumping method.
We know that breastfeeding with an engorged breast can be painful and frustrating. Thankfully, there are things you can do to make it easier for you and your baby.
The name of the game is swelling reduction. You should do what it takes to reduce the swelling around your nipple to make it easier for your baby to latch. There are various ways to do this, starting with massage.
We know that pushing on the sensitive tissue of your breast may be the last thing you want to do right now. But a simple massage can help improve your milk flow and relieve the swelling. Just remember to be gentle and perform the massage before you nurse.
Another way to reduce swelling is to use compresses. Using both heat and cold together can improve milk flow which can relieve some of the pressure.
Heat doesn’t reduce swelling. But, it can help improve your milk flow. You can apply a warm cloth to your breasts before breastfeeding. Or, hop in a warm shower for just a few minutes. While you’re in there, try to relax, mama.
Cold compresses do reduce swelling. You can use a cold wet towel or even ice packs, depending on what you’ve got. Do this for 15-20 minutes every hour as needed.
Expressing a bit of milk before you attempt a latch can help soften your nipple which may make it easier for your baby. Hand expressing may also relieve some of the pressure of the milk. If you’re concerned about wasting breast milk, don’t worry—it doesn’t take much.
If you have a breast pump, you can also try pumping for a few minutes before breastfeeding your baby for the same effect.
Chances are, your baby already has a favorite breastfeeding position. Yet, swollen breasts can change things.
If your baby is still struggling to latch onto your nipple, you can try a different breastfeeding position such as the football hold, side-lying hold or cradle hold. Experiment to see what works best for your baby when your breasts are fuller than normal.
Did you know that the bra you wear while you’re breastfeeding can impact the health of your breasts? It’s true. According to the La Leche League, wearing a bra that’s too tight can result in plugged ducts. And plugged ducts with engorgement? That’s an experience you want to avoid at all costs.
A supportive nursing bra can help relieve the pressure of swollen breasts. This can then make breastfeeding your little one easier and less painful. The bra shouldn’t be tight at all. It should also feature a band that fits flat against your skin under your breasts and snug cups for the best support.
Breast engorgement won’t last forever, especially after birth. Once you and your baby find a routine, your breasts will follow suit and start making the perfect amount of milk for your little one.
If you become concerned about your breasts or your baby’s inability to latch, reach out to your OB/GYN or your baby’s pediatrician. They’ll be able to provide you with the necessary support and care.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect on-the-go breast pump or a supportive nursing bra, we’ve got you covered. To simplify the breastfeeding journey, shop our products today!
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