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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Dealing with Breastfeeding Engorgement

Dealing with Breastfeeding Engorgement #engorgement #breastfeeding

As if being a new mama isn’t exhausting enough, when you’re a breastfeeding mama there are some added stresses that come along (but don’t worry, the bonding far outweighs the few stresses). One of the common situations that a breastfeeding mother will come across is breastfeeding engorgement.

Engorgement is a common problem for many lactating mothers in the first several weeks postpartum. Your body is doing something new (or something it hasn’t done in awhile) and is going to town making milk to nourish your new, sweet bundle. While you may be feeding around the clock and doing everything right, sometimes we still just can’t avoid dealing with engorgement.

What can cause breastfeeding engorgement?

  • Not feeding enough: This can be due to mother and baby trying to stick to a feeding schedule. While the idea of scheduling sounds nice, often times one of the best routes to go in the beginning is to feed on demand.
  • Not feeding long enough: Imposing time limits on baby’s feeding sessions can lead to engorgement since baby may not empty the breasts during the feedings. Let baby set the pace and time limit for nursing sessions and avoid watching the clock. They know just how much they need and want.
  • Separation of mother and baby: Sending baby to the newborn nursery or asking your mother-in-law to watch baby may be great for a new mother to rest, but separation can lead to missed feedings.
  • Sleepy baby: An overly tired baby may not actually nurse to nourish and/or may not empty the breasts.
  • Supplementing, poor latching, and poor positioning: Avoid supplementing in all cases unless absolutely necessary and if you are unsure of positioning and latch, seek help from a lactation consultant.

What are the signs of breastfeeding engorgement?

  • Swollen, hard and painful-to-the-touch breasts
  • Breasts that are warm to the touch
  • Breasts that are red or throbbing
  • Low grade fever
  • Skin of the nipple and areola stretched out tightly to where baby can hardly latch
  • Occasional pain at the nipple while baby is latched on

How can you treat breastfeeding engorgement?

  • Ensure good latching, positioning and proper sucking
  • Feed frequently and on demand (even adding more feedings can help for the time being)
  • Avoid the use of artificial nipples and supplementing
  • Keep baby awake during the feedings by rubbing the ears and jaw line and by feeding skin to skin
  • Massage breasts in a circle motion during the feeding, working your way from chest to nipple
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration but also remember not to “force” water
  • Avoid wearing tight articles of clothing, tight bras and avoid sleeping on your chest
  • Briefly apply heat compresses before a feeding to stimulate milk flow
  • Apply cold compresses after the feeding for relief
  • Try hot showers first thing in the morning while massaging and “working” the breast (your breast may drain and this will significantly help you)
  • Use a good quality pump to relieve some milk out right before the feeding to help soften the breasts and allow baby to easily and painlessly latch on
  • Drain the breasts with your breast pump, but only once or twice a day to avoid signaling the body to make even more milk

Coming from a mother who had breasts as hard as bowling balls and fever high enough to result in an emergency doctor visit; engorgement is no fun at all. However just like many situations while breastfeeding, engorgement can be fixed with the proper attention and care that it deserves. With some patience, some basic knowledge and support to get you through it, you can overcome engorgement. Engorgement is a battle that many of us breastfeeding mamas will face and some of us may even face this battle a few times. And while those hard breasts may be causing excruciating pain, just remember that over that “hump” there’s relief: there is relief, joy, soft breasts and a sweet baby ready to cuddle up next to mama and receive that nutritious milk your body has worked so hard to produce.

Have you dealt with breastfeeding engorgement? What helped you?

Sasha is the voice behind the green living, mommy blog, The Mushy Mommy, where she writes about her journey towards living a healthier, non toxic lifestyle. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart and is the proud mama to a spunky little girl. Sasha loves supporting others through breastfeeding so much that she is currently in training to become a certified breastfeeding counselor and a certified childbirth educator. You can visit Sasha over at her personal blogFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and Google+.


  1. I had a HORRIBLE time with engorgement and I received some very wise advice from an elderly lactation consultant that helped me tremendously!! Place cabbage leaves around the breasts. That single action helped more than anything else I tried!! Just take raw cabbage leaves (and if they just came out of the fridge, they will feel amazing!) and stuff your bra with them. Warning: if you breasts are warm due to the engorgement, you might start smelling like cooked cabbage LOL. BUT…it’s worth the relief. I also would lightly wash my breasts before feeding just because I was afraid since cabbage can make one gassy, I was afraid that the baby might would taste it and either not like the taste or would get a tummy ache. I have shared this with many nursing moms and it has helped.


  1. […] Engorgement is a terrible, horrible place to be. It’s a problem that’s quickly solved by getting rid of the stored up milk reserves. If you’re unable to nurse or pump, your breasts will leak a little (or a lot) of milk in order to relieve some of the pressure. […]

  2. […] like mastitis. Working through engorgement isn’t easy but is very doable. Read my post here to help you manage your engorgement and just remember that you’ll eventually overcome the […]

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