Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tips to Relieve Engorgement

Good for you - you're off to a good start by choosing to breastfeed your baby. The postpartum period is a time of physical and emotional adjustment for both you and your baby. Prior to the 20th century, most new mothers could turn to their own mothers for support and guidance on breastfeeding. Adjusting to new motherhood will be easier when you are supported by others. Practice patience. It will take several weeks and most of your time and energy to learn to care for yourself and your baby.

Between the third and fifth day post-partum, the volume of milk produced by a breastfeeding mother increases dramatically. At this time you will begin to perceive the filling of your breasts as the welcomed sign of "engorgement." This is due to an increase in the volume of your breastmilk, as well as body fluids within your breast tissue. Your breasts may become hot, red, firm and uncomfortable with the onset of engorgement and you may feel body aches. This condition lasts only 24 - 48 hours, providing the baby is nursing well. Frequent nursing (every 2 - 3 hours or more) from birth helps reduce the tenderness and severity of engorgement.

Frequent nursing does not worsen engorgement. It removes milk and reduces swelling. Encourage your baby to nurse as long and as often as he/she desires at least 8 - 12 times/24 hours. Unrelieved engorgement increases breast pain and slows milk production. Avoid bottles, and pacifiers during this engorgement period. Instead, encourage your baby to suckle freely at the breast, thereby building your milk supply and relieving engorgement.

If your breasts become very full, your baby may not be able to take the breast because it is too hard. To soften the breast and ease the latch-on, apply moist heat for 10 minutes prior to feeding, then hand express or pump the breast until the areola softens. Warm wet packs or a warm shower will help start your milk flowing. Massaging the breast between warm compresses or while in the shower also relieves swelling. Submerging your breasts in a sink of warm water before the next feeding can also soften the breast. A clean, disposable diaper soaked with tap water and warmed in the microwave can be used as a moist heat compress. (Be careful not to overheat!)

Softening the nipple and areola will make it easier for your baby to latch-on. Use a breast pump or hand expression for 1 to 2 minutes before feeding. Hand expression is a learned skill. Try putting your index finger under the breast and your thumb on top 1-1 ½ inches behind the nipple. Your finger and thumb should be directly opposite each other on the areola, not on the nipple. Compress your areola by squeezing your finger toward your thumb in a rhythm… 1001, 1002, 1003, etc. Hand express just enough to soften the areola and extend the nipple. If your baby is satisfied after one side, use a breast pump as necessary to soften the other side every few hours. Unrelieved engorgement causes milk production to stop.

If you are still uncomfortable after nursing, a simple cold compress can be used to reduce pain and help relieve swelling. Frozen vegetables (peas or corn) make good ice packs and can be reused. Do not apply ice directly to bare skin. You may also try an old home remedy: refrigerated cabbage leaves. Rinse the leaves, chill them, and tuck them inside your bra. As they wilt, replace with fresh leaves within two to four hours.

A well fitted, supportive nursing bra may make you feel more comfortable. Avoid underwire bras during engorgement, but they may be worn later, if preferred. Some women enjoy wearing a soft sleep bra during the nighttime. To relieve body aches and breast swelling, you may take ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), as per package directions.
  • Breastfeed frequently, 8-12 times every 24 hours
  • Apply moist warmth to the breast for 10 minutes before feedings
  • Hand express or use a breast pump to soften the areola and extend the nipple before feedings
  • Apply cold packs for 10 minutes after feedings
  • Wear a nursing bra, 24 hours every day
  • Use an over-the-counter "aspirin free" pain reliever

Severe engorgement is a breastfeeding emergency. Occasionally a woman is so engorged that even with all the techniques listed above, the baby has a very difficult time latching onto the breast. If the baby is unable to nurse and the engorgement is not relieved, your milk supply will drop quickly. This problem can be resolved with a good quality (hospital grade) breast pump. Working with a Lactation Consultant may also be extremely valuable.

Call and ask about the Medela Harmony Manual Breastpump

* In compliance with Medela's Policies, all vendors of this pump must process customer orders in person or over the phone to ensure quality customer service and education regarding use of this breast pump. The Pump Station is a Medela Certified Nursing Center. To order, please contact us at 1-877-842-7867

Milkies Milk-Saver

Majamas Easy Bra

ComfortGel Nursing Pads