Engorged breasts, ye-ouch. Engorgement happens on some level to almost every mum. It's the time post birth when after vigorous encouragement sucking from baby, your milk comes in and you wake up with breasts like Pamela Anderson's - only real.
And if you think I'm kidding - here's photographic evidence. The first shot is taken on a carefree holiday pre-kids, the second shot is taken 3 days after the birth of of my second child.
I'm sharing these shots because even though I was told to expect engorgement I really had no idea what was going to happen and to what extent! It can take approximately two weeks for your breasts to settle down completely and not be rock hard in between feeds but for some women it takes only a few days.
Top 10 tips for dealing with breast engorgement:
Once this initial period passes don't be surprised if you get short periods of engorgement as baby has growth spurts or they miss a feed as they start to sleep through. Your body will adjust quickly, keep feeding and use the steps above as required.
- Jump in the shower and just let the milk run out. You can hand express too if need be.
- Use a warm/hot flannel before feeding. This softens the breast tissue and makes it much easier to latch baby, and as I constantly bang on about - latch is everything.
- Resist the temptation to use a breastpump during this initial phase. If you pump milk, you will make more so let your baby be the one who tells your body how much milk it needs to make. Supply = demand
- Feed often. Keep your little one close and look out for hunger signs (fist sucking and the like)
- Take panadol if it's really painful but be sure that it's engorgement and not a sign something else is wrong.
- Massage your breasts while baby is feeding, this will increase milk flow. In the early days have a clean flannel or small towel handy for the breast you aren't feeding from as you may find you leak profusely at let down (and during the feed).
- Whole cabbage leaves in your bra can help but don't use them too much as they actually inhibit milk production. Leave on for 15 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day.
- Make sure any bra you wear is not too tight to compress the breast tissue.
- Massage out any lumps - yes it freaking hurts but you need to clear out any blockages.
- Get help! If your latch isn't quite right, you may not be draining the breast so seek help early on if you think this is the problem. Sore, cracked nipples are a sign the latch isn't what it should be. Call your local La Leche League, your midwife or a lactaction consultant ASAP.