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Breast Engorgement - Home Treatment

To prevent severe breast engorgement

If you are planning to breast-feed, do the following to prevent severe breast engorgement.

  • Start breast-feeding as soon as possible after your baby is born, and continue to breast-feed often. This is the best way to prevent severe engorgement.
    • In the first few days after birth, breast-feed at least every 1 to 2 hours. Short periods of time between feedings may help reduce or prevent severe breast engorgement. During this time, you may have to wake your baby to breast-feed.
    • Feed your baby whenever he or she is hungry or at least every 2 hours.
  • Make sure that your breasts are soft enough for your baby to latch on well. If your breasts are hard and too full of milk, let out (express) a small amount of milk with your hands or with a pump. Then put your baby to the breast. You can also:
    • Take a warm shower, letting the water flow over your breasts. This should trigger the let-down reflex, which allows some milk to leak out and also slightly softens the nipple and areola.
    • Place warm, moist towels on your breasts before breast-feeding. The moist heat should help your milk flow more easily.
  • Empty your breasts with each feeding.
    • Your baby should breast-feed for as long as he or she wants. In general, it's best if this is for at least 15 minutes or more on the first breast before changing to the second breast. You will know it is time to move to the other breast when your baby becomes less eager to suck.
    • If your baby becomes full before your breasts are empty, use a pump or use your hands (manual expression) camera.gif to squeeze the remaining milk from your breasts to store for later use. This is especially important during the early stages of breast-feeding.
    • Early engorgement will decrease as breast-feeding becomes more routine and your baby is able to feed for longer periods of time.
  • Change your baby's breast-feeding position now and then to make sure that all parts of your breasts are emptied. For information on breast-feeding positions, see the topic Breast-Feeding.
  • Make sure your baby is latched on properly. If your nipples are flat, gently massage the nipple and areola. This should stimulate your nipple to become more erect. Then gently support your breast with your thumb on top and fingers underneath. This added support will make it easier for your baby to latch on. View a slideshow of proper latch-on for breast-feeding slideshow.gif.
  • Anytime you are not able to breast-feed your baby, arrange for a time and place to manually express or pump milk from your breasts at least every 3 to 4 hours.

Discuss any breast-feeding problems or concerns with your doctor or a breast-feeding specialist (lactation consultant).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 30, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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