How To Prepare For Engorged Breasts (5 Tips)


Within 3-5 days of giving birth, you may notice your breasts fill out, feel warmer and tender to touch. This is a good sign that your milk is coming in. Sometimes during this period women experience pain and hardness in their breasts if they become engorged. Here are a few tips to get you through if you do experience this:

1.       Hydrotherapy

Soak your breasts in warm water. Rinsing them in the shower or immersing them in the tub can relieve your discomfort. The warming water may help soften your breasts. You may wish to hand express some milk while you’re in the water, softening your breasts just enough that your baby can latch on more easily. Put your baby on your breast while you’re in the water or as soon as you come out and encourage your baby to empty one breast before burping and switching to the next.

2.       Warm Compresses

Have a minimum of two face cloths ready to go. If you have someone helping you (such as a doula, like myself), ask them to soak the cloths in warm or hot water. Rinse the water out and wrap your breasts in them (make sure they’re not too hot!). Relax as long as the cloths are warm, then swap them out for refreshed ones. If you have several face cloths available, roll them up and place them in a pot filled with warm/hot water with a lid to contain the heat. Keep this pot by your bed or a comfy chair and swap them out yourself, as needed. It’s best to do this before a feed or during a feed. It may soften your breasts just enough for your baby to get a good latch. It should feel good.

3.       Breastfeed or Pump

Breastfeed as much as you can in the early days. Tickle your baby's toes, keep them cool, and hand express some milk into his/her mouth if they're often sleepy at the breast. Encourage your baby to breastfeed for as long as you can on each side. If you aren't able to breastfeed for any reason, use the pump instead. However you can empty your breasts, do it. This will relieve the engorgement and encourage your body to continue producing milk.

4.       Cabbage Leaves

Refrigerate a whole cabbage and use the leaves as need. Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the cold leaf and crush the veins before placing the leaf in your bra/against your breast. Leave the leaves there for up to an hour for relief. 

5.       Bra or No Bra?

If you need to wear a bra for support, choose one that has no underwire, is stretchy, and just feels good. If you can go bra-less, this gives your breasts freedom while encouraging development of healthy upper chest muscles. Either way, give your breasts the freedom and support they need to feel good during this time of transition. Exposing your breasts to sunlight (through the window in the winter) also helps keep them healthy and happy.

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