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Breast Engorgement - Symptoms

Symptoms of breast engorgement happen when the breasts produce and fill with milk but little milk is removed from them. Milk overfills and engorges the breasts.

If your breasts are engorged, you may notice the following:

  • Breasts are swollen, firm, and painful. If severely engorged, breasts are very swollen, hard, shiny, warm, and slightly lumpy to the touch.
  • Your nipple may flatten out and the dark area around the nipple, called the areola, may be very hard.
    • Your baby may have trouble latching on to a flattened, hard nipple and may not be able to get enough milk out.
    • If your baby is not able to get enough milk, he or she will suck harder than usual during nursing and want to nurse more often.
    • Your nipples may become damaged by your baby's efforts to latch on well and get enough milk.
  • You have a slight fever of around 100°F (37.8°C).
  • The lymph nodes in your armpits may be slightly swollen and tender.

Complications of engorgement

If you are breast-feeding and don't relieve breast engorgement, you are likely to develop one or both of the following:

Call your doctor now if you have:

  • Increasing pain in one area of the breast.
  • Increasing redness in one area of the breast or red streaks extending away from an area of the breast.
  • Drainage of pus from the nipple or another area of the breast.
  • A fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or higher.

Call your doctor today if you have:

Call your doctor if you have cracked and bleeding nipples after trying home treatment for 24 hours.

See Blocked Milk Ducts and Breast-Feeding. And for more information, see the topic Mastitis While Breast-Feeding.


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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