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Breast Engorgement - Topic Overview

You can prevent breast engorgement by closely managing the milk your breasts make and keeping milk moving out of your breasts. During your body's first week or two of adjusting to breast-feeding, take care not to let your breasts become overfilled.

  • Breast-feed your baby whenever he or she shows signs of hunger. If your breasts are hard and overfilled, let out (express) enough to soften your nipples before putting your baby to the breast.
  • Make sure that your baby is latching on and feeding well.
  • Empty your breasts with each feeding. This will help your milk move freely, and your milk supply will stay at the level your baby needs.

If you have any concerns or questions, this is a good time to work with a lactation consultant, someone who helps mothers learn to breast-feed.

Breast engorgement is diagnosed based on symptoms alone. No exams or tests are needed.

A few days after your milk comes in, your milk supply should adjust to your baby's needs. You can expect relief from the first normal engorgement within 12 to 24 hours (or in 1 to 5 days if you are not breast-feeding). Your symptoms should disappear within a few days. If not, or if your breasts do not soften after a feeding, start home treatment right away.

To reduce pain and swelling, take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), apply ice or cold compresses, and wear a supportive nursing bra that is not too tight. Before you take any kind of medicine, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use it while you are breast-feeding.

To soften your breasts before feedings, apply heat, massage gently, and use your hands camera.gif or use a pump to let out (express) a small amount of milk from both breasts.

If your baby can't feed well or at all (such as during an illness), be sure to gently pump enough to empty each breast. You can store or freeze the breast milk for later use.

If your breasts still feel uncomfortable after nursing, apply cool compresses.

If you are not breast-feeding, avoid stimulating the nipples or warming the breasts. Instead, apply cold packs, use medicine for pain and inflammation, and wear a supportive bra that fits well.

Learning about breast engorgement:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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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