Engorged Breasts

Engorged Breasts

When your breast milk comes in (sometime between day 3 and day 7), you may get engorged breasts. When this happens, you may…

  • feel a sense of fullness, be proud that your milk has come-in, and happy to have a bustier chest [consider yourself lucky].
  • On the other hand, you may feel pain because your breasts are hard, heavy, tight, and sensitive to touch. This is called engorgement [this is typical for women who have just had a baby].
  • Some women feel excruciating pain, to the point where it is almost unbearable [here, you can definitely consider yourself to be unlucky!]

The good news is that your breast will not be engorged forever. The pain and fullness should subside in about 4 or 5 days. Your body will figure out how much milk to make based on how often your baby sucks and empties out the breast of milk. In the mean time you can use any of the methods below to ease the pain.

  1. Wear a well fitted bra. Make sure that the bra fits well, distribute the weight of your breasts, and doesn’t pinch or compress any part of your breast. Read about nursing bras here.

  2. place cold packs on and around your breast.
    • You can use a flexible cold pack: cool it in the refrigerator, wrap a towel around it, and then place it on your breasts.
    • If you do not have a cold pack, you can place crushed ice in a plastic zip-lock bag, wrap a towel around this and then place it on your breasts.
    The coolness will decrease the swelling and give you some relief. You should do this after you breastfeed or in between feeding sessions. Don’t do it right before feeding because the coolness can inhibit let-down.

  3. If it is near feeding time, you can ease the pain by using hot packs on your breast.
    • They can be in the form of a hot water bottle, an electric heating pad, or a microwaveable heat wrap.
    • If you don’t have any of these, you can use a face towel soaked in warm/hot water, or take a warm shower.
    The warmth will cause some of your milk to flow and this will ease the tension and tightness in the breast. Plus – a warm shower is always nice, with or without engorged breasts.

  4. You can hand express a little bit of milk out so that your breasts are not as full. Again, this will release some of the tension and tightness in your breast. Do not use a breast pump to pump out all of the milk from your breasts. This will cause your body to make even more milk because supply = demand.

  5. Some women find that placing cool cabbage leaves on their breasts make them feel better. This home remedy is well established and works for many women.
    1. Buy a head of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator (you may also rip off a few leaves and store them in the freezer).
    2. Take two cabbage leaves and cut holes in the center. Place these on your breasts with the nipples poking out of the holes.
    3. Wear a bra over the leaves so they stay in place. engorged breasts cabbage and quark
    4. When the leaves have warmed and wilted, replace them with fresh leaves.

    The coolness will give you relief. Some people think that cabbage has medicinal components that help relieve engorged breasts.

  6. Another home remedy is to use Quark (also called Topfen in Austria). Quark is a European dairy product similar to cottage cheese but it is more smooth like yogurt. In English, it is sometimes translated as “curd cheese”.
    • Make a poultice or compress with Quark and apply it to your engorged breasts.
    • Read what other women think of quark compresses in this forum.
    The coolness soothes the pain and, like the cabbage leaves, some believe that the curd cheese has ingredients in it that helps relieve the engorged breasts.

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