Breastfeeding tip: How to relieve swollen breasts

shutterstock_124854004 breastfeeding mom resizedSome women who are breastfeeding experience engorgement, which is a swelling of their breasts when the milk is not all emptied. Engorgement usually happens two to four days after baby’s birth, and the best solution is to let the baby nurse more often. This can sometimes be a challenge for both baby and mom, so here are some suggestions to help:

1. Watch for his feeding cues – such as hands to his mouth, making sucking movements with his mouth and stirring to a wakeful state after sleeping – and get him to latch on before he starts to cry. He will feed better when he isn’t upset.

2. Let him nurse as long as he wants and allow him to try to empty the first breast before changing him to the second side. This will help the baby receive enough breast milk to be satisfied and will allow one breast to be emptied well.

3. Try some gentle massage on the breast while he is nursing to improve the flow of breast milk. If he won’t stay latched while you are massaging, you can massage the breast just before getting him to latch.

4. Try feeding your baby from the breast right after getting out of the shower or covering your breasts with warm moist towels for a few minutes right before nursing your baby. The gentle massage and heat from the shower or the moist warmth from the towels will help get milk flowing.

5. Don’t skip feedings. If your baby looks like he might nurse, let him. If your baby doesn’t nurse long enough to help you feel less swollen, you can pump some of the milk to relieve the pressure.

Engorgement can be uncomfortable, but it won’t last forever. If you’re still experiencing engorgement after following these suggestions, contact your lactation consultant for help.

About Author: Paula Hart, RN, BS, IBCLC, CCE

Paula Hart, OSF Saint Anthony - Center for Life

Paula Hart is a former certified perinatal educator at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois. She is a registered nurse who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Arts from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

Paula held a national certification as a breastfeeding counselor for eight years before becoming an internationally board certified lactation counselor in 2010. She has been a maternal/child nurse in both the hospital and public health settings for most of her career and previously served as a prenatal classes educator at OSF Saint Anthony.

She really enjoys baking and cooking, as well as reading almost anything she can find.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity