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Breast engorgement means your breasts are painfully overfull of milk. This usually occurs when a mother makes more milk than her baby uses. Your breasts may become firm and swollen, which can make it hard for your baby to breastfeed. Engorged breasts can be treated at home.
Engorgement may happen:
Once you are five months pregnant, your breasts will start to make colostrum, which is a yellowish liquid that contains everything your baby needs right after birth. About 2 to 5 days after your baby is born, you will notice an increase in the amount of breast milk you will be making. Your breasts may feel warm and heavy. This early breast fullness is from the milk you make and extra blood and fluids in your breasts. Your body uses the extra fluids to make more breast milk for your baby.
This normal breast fullness will probably go away in a few days as you breastfeed and your body adjusts to your baby's needs. Your breasts may become painfully engorged if you aren't breastfeeding your baby often or if the feedings are not removing enough breast milk.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can work with a lactation consultant. This is someone who helps mothers learn to breastfeed.
If engorgement is severe, your breasts get very swollen and painful. Severe engorgement can make it hard for your baby to latch on to the breast properly. As a result:
Severe engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts which can lead to a breast infection, called mastitis. Mastitis may need to be treated with antibiotics.
If engorgement is making it hard to breastfeed, use the following steps. They can relieve your symptoms and keep your milk flowing.
If you are not breastfeeding, use one or more of these steps to relieve discomfort:
Your breasts will be engorged for several days if you don't or can't breastfeed after your baby is born. This will gradually go away if your breasts are not stimulated to make milk. At present, there is no approved medicine to "dry up" your milk supply and prevent engorgement.
You may be able to prevent engorgement if you keep milk moving out of your breasts and take care not to let your breasts become overfilled.
Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Feeding your baby: Breast and bottle. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., chap. 4, pp. 91–93. New York: Bantam. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). The puerperium. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 646–660. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Adaptation Date: 7/29/2020
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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