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Breast Engorgement - Home Treatment

To relieve breast engorgement

If you need to breast-feed but breast engorgement is preventing you from doing so, use these steps to keep your milk flow going and relieve your pain and swelling:

  • Soften your nipple and areola before breast-feeding, to avoid nipple damage. When the nipple and areola are soft, the nipple protrudes more easily, allowing your baby to latch on well. View a slideshow of proper latch-on for breast-feeding slideshow.gif.
    • If your breasts are freely leaking, you can use a warm compress for a couple of minutes before breast-feeding.
    • Gently pump or use your hands (manual expression) camera.gif to let out a small amount of milk. Be careful not to injure your breast tissue. An automatic cycling breast pump with the suction adjusted to low is best for relieving engorgement.
  • Use gentle breast massage to promote milk flow.
  • Breast-feed your baby more often, or pump your breasts if your baby won't breast-feed. Take care to empty your breasts each time. You can freeze pumped milk in clean containers or bags for later use.
  • Reduce swelling and relieve pain. After breast-feeding:
    • Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin, for example), in addition to the non-medicine treatments. When taken as directed, ibuprofen is safe to use while breast-feeding.1 But before you take any kind of medicine, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use it while you are breast-feeding.
    • Try cold compresses. Apply a frozen wet towel, cold gel or ice packs, or bags of frozen vegetables to your breasts for 15 minutes at a time every hour as needed. To prevent tissue damage, do not apply cold to your bare skin. Place a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin.
  • Avoid constricting bras that press on your breasts. A tight bra can reduce milk flow through the ducts, eventually causing blocked ducts.

To relieve engorgement if you are not breast-feeding

If you are bottle-feeding formula and you experience breast engorgement after childbirth, use one or more of the following measures to help relieve discomfort:

  • Avoid pumping or removing a large amount of milk from your breasts. This stimulates milk production and makes engorgement worse. Remove just enough milk to make you feel more comfortable.
  • Take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) in addition to the non-medicine treatments. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Try cold compresses. Place a frozen wet towel, cold gel or ice packs, or bags of frozen vegetables on your breasts for 15 minutes at a time every hour as needed. To prevent tissue injury, do not apply cold directly to bare skin. Place a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin.
  • Wear a supportive bra that fits well.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 07, 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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