Breastfeeding Advice: Help I Think I Have Engorged Breasts!

Milk will be coming in and enlarging and filling your breasts anywhere from 24 hours to 80 hours after birth, but the most common time for milk to come in is around 60 hours.

For most mums, if their baby is feeding well and frequently the breasts will become fuller and heavier but probably won’t become engorged. So what does engorged actually mean?...

Some women produce almost more milk than their breasts can hold in the first few days 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, understandably, be painful and uncomfortable!

Often your breasts will feel fairly hot too. This is not mastitis just a huge amount of work occurring in your breasts right now!

Problems Which May Occur with Engorged Breasts

Here are a few things that women with engorged breasts may report.

  • Baby finds it really hard to attach on to the breast to feed, as the nipple is flatter and the breast tissue is too hard.
  • Milk keeps building up and the breasts become harder and harder.
  • If milk is not released by the baby feeding well or frequent expression eventually your milk supply will start to dry up.
  • Therefore it is really important to soften the breasts, to help baby breastfeed again and to maintain your milk supply!

How Do I Best Deal with Engorgement?

Of course, since everyone’s situation is different, you should definitely talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you have any concerns about your breastfeeding experience. That said, here are a few simple ways to deal with engorgement.

  • Ensure you are feeding baby between 8-12 times every 24 hours.
  • Ensure baby is having good attachment at the breast.
  • Try feeding in different positions.
  • 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 you feel comfortable.
  • If baby cannot breastfeed then express your milk until your breasts feel comfortable and softer.
  • Try something called “reverse pressure softening.” This easy technique helps to push excess fluid back into the breast, allowing the milk to flow. (Scroll to the bottom of webpage to see excellent diagrams as well)
  • Keep baby in skin to skin contact as long as possible throughout the day and when you’re awake at night. By keeping baby close to you and on your chest it will make sure baby feeds frequently, which helps prevent prolonged engorgement.

Has anyone that you know had to deal with engorged breasts after giving birth? What did they learn from the experience? Please join the conversation here or on our Medela Australia Facebook page.