Breast engorgement is a condition that is characterized by an increase in blood flow and milk supply in your breasts a few days after you deliver your baby. The increased blood flow could stimulate your breasts to start producing milk, but on the other hand, could result in pain and discomfort. Although breast engorgement typically happens a few days after birth, it can sometimes recur in the course of breastfeeding.
Breast engorgement causes symptoms that may vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include heavy or full breasts, swollen breasts, lumpy breasts, hard or tight breasts as well as breasts that are tender or warm to touch. Other symptoms of breast engorgement include noticeable veins under the skin of the breast, as well as low-grade fever and fatigue on the first day few days of milk production.
The symptoms of breast engorgement must not necessarily be felt on both breasts. Sometimes, they can only be felt on one breast. Certain conditions or events may make some women more prone to breast engorgement than others. The risk factors of breast engorgement include not feeding your baby in time, skipping your pumping sessions, weaning your baby too quickly, nursing your baby when he is sick, not nursing your baby because you decided to use formula, difficulties in latching or sucking by your baby, as well as supplementing your baby’s feeding with formula milk.
If you have breast engorgement that comes alongside high fever, you need to consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of a breast infection.
There are many home remedies for breast engorgement but the ideal remedy depends on whether or not you are breastfeeding. For breastfeeding mothers, the treatment options for breast engorgement include feeding your baby more frequently and regularly, massaging your breasts whenever you are nursing your baby, applying a cold compress or packs of ice on your breast to help relieve pain, nursing your baby for as long as it is interested in sucking, adjusting nursing positions, using a pump to extract breast milk when you can’t nurse, and using prescribed medications to relieve pain.
For mothers who are not nursing, breast engorgement usually lasts for only one day. But if you can’t wait for it to subside on its own, you can go for remedies such as taking prescribed pain medications, applying a cold compress or ice pack on your breast, and above all, putting on firm bras that prevent your breasts from shaking significantly.
Note that you can’t prevent breast engorgement but you can discipline yourself to indulge in safe practices that can help relieve you from the symptoms.