Engorgement – wow… they’re as hard as rockmelons!

Engorgement Engorgement is a common issue for lots of mums during the early days of breastfeeding and sometimes later during the breastfeeding relationship.

Engorgement is defined by the full feeling that women experience when their mature milk comes in – often 3 or 4 days after the birth of their babies. The breasts fill with milk, causing discomfort, a heavy sensation, hardness and sometimes a mild fever. My husband fondly refers to this as: ‘Oh, I see the Milk Fairy has visited!’

I recently had a call from a mum on the Breastfeeding Helpline regarding this – she had a very young baby, her milk had just come in and her breasts were over-full, hard and painful.

She was relieved to find out that this initial engorgement is a very normal part of establishing breastfeeding. With the delivery of the placenta, your body gives milk production a huge kick-start to ensure the survival of the newly-born infant and a good start to breastfeeding. With proper management this engorgement quickly settles down. Research shows that the more milk that is removed from the breasts during the first two weeks the more successful the breastfeeding relationship will be.

Ideas for coping with engorgement are:

  • Feed baby more often – offer a feed whenever the baby is awake.
  • Make sure you don’t miss any feeds.
  • Give night feeds.
  • Avoid giving baby any water, glucose water, or artificial baby milk feeds.
  • Let your baby finish the first breast first. This means letting your baby have a good, long thorough feed from the first breast before you offer the second one – 20–30 minutes is usually enough time. You will know your baby has ‘finished the breast’ when his sucking becomes less active, the sucking is shallower and baby swallows less frequently.
  • Give your baby 8–12 feeds in 24 hours, this will not only relieve your engorgement but will also establish a good start to breastfeeding.
  • Gently express for comfort in between feeds, not to further stimulate supply, but to relieve the fullness.

 Further Information:

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Janet Murphy

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