Breast engorgement occurs when breasts become uncomfortably full of
milk. Engorgement may cause the nipples to flatten and slow the flow of milk,
making it hard for an infant to latch on to the breast and feed.
Primary breast engorgement most often occurs in the first few days
after delivery, when
breast-feeding may be irregular. Secondary engorgement
may occur when the mother is unable to breast-feed, cannot pump her breasts, or
must stop breast-feeding suddenly. Working women who have difficulty scheduling
regular feedings or times to pump may have problems with secondary breast
engorgement. Secondary engorgement can be relieved by pumping or
breast-feeding. Feeding or expressing breast milk will also help relieve
Relieving breast engorgement
To promote milk flow and relieve discomfort, warm your breasts by
taking a shower or by placing a warm, wet towel on your breast before
breast-feeding. Pump or
hand express enough milk to soften the nipple and areola so your baby can
latch on more easily. Doing this will help your baby to empty your breasts and
relieve your engorgement.
Wearing a supportive and comfortable bra may also help, and
applying cold compresses to your breasts after breast-feeding may reduce
swelling and pain.
Engorgement that does not improve can lead to more serious
problems, such as
blocked milk ducts or even a breast infection (mastitis).
For more information, see the topic Breast Engorgement.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Mary Robbins, RNC, IBCLC - Lactation Consultant
April 13, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
April 13, 2011
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