Within the first two to three days after you have
given birth, you may discover that your breasts
feel swollen, tender, throbbing, lumpy, and
overly full. Sometimes, the swelling will extend
all the way to your armpit, and you may run a
low fever as well.
Within 72 hours of giving birth, an abundance
of milk will come in or become available to your
baby. As this happens, more blood will flow
to your breasts and some of the surrounding tissue
will swell. The result is full, swollen, engorged
Not every postpartum mom experienced true
engorgement. Some women’s breasts become only
slightly full, while others find their breasts
have become amazingly hard. Some women will hardly
notice the pain, as they are involved in other
things during the first few days.
Keep in mind, engorgement is a positive sign
that you are producing milk to feed to your
baby. Until you produce the right amount:
1. Wear a supportive nursing bra, even
at night – making sure it isn’t too tight.
2. Breast feed often, every 2 – 3 hours
if you can. Try to get the first side of your
breasts as soft as possible. If your baby seems
satisfied with just one breast, you can offer
the other at the next feeding.
3. Avoid letting your baby latch on and
suck when the areola is very firm. To reduce
the possibility of nipple damage, you can use
a pump until your areola softens up.
4. Avoid pumping milk except when you
need to soften the areola or when your baby
is unable to latch on. Excessive pumping can
lead to the over production of milk and prolonged
5. To help soothe the pain and relieve
swelling, apply cold packs to your breasts for
a short amount of time after you nurse. Crushed
ice in a plastic bag will also work.
6. Look ahead. You’ll get past this
engorgement in no time and soon be able to
enjoy your breast feeding relationship with your
Engorgement will pass very quickly. You can
expect it to diminish within 24 – 48 hours, as
nursing your baby will only help the problem. If
you aren’t breast feeding, it will normally
get worse before it gets better. Once the
engorgement has passed, your breasts will be
softer and still full of milk.
During this time, you can and should continue to
nurse. Unrelieved engorgement can cause a drop
in your production of milk, so it’s important
to breast feed right from the start. Keep an
eye for signs of hunger and feed him when he
needs to be fed.