It is something many nursing mothers experience: an engorged breast. While new mothers might be nervous about this—and it can be uncomfortable—the problem can usually be treated easily at home.
Why does it happen?
Breast engorgement is caused by the presence of too much milk in the breast. It can happen when the milk first comes in, if you abruptly stop nursing, or if your baby is eating less than usual.
How can I avoid it?
You can avoid an engorged breast by doing the following:
- Be sure that your baby is latching on and eating well. This will help prevent other breastfeeding problems as well.
- Be sure that your breast empties completely with each feeding. That includes both sides.
- Breastfeed or pump milk more frequently. A newborn should be fed every 1-3 hours, night and day.
Some tips for treating a swollen breast
An engorged breast can be treated quite effectively at home without the need for Medical intervention.
- If your doctor says that it is OK, try taking ibuprofen (brand names: Motrin and Advil) to treat the pain and swelling.
- Breastfeed more frequently.
- Place a cold compress—such as an ice pack—on your breast after you nurse. A bag of frozen vegetables works well as a cold compress.
The good news is that most cases resolve in a day or two.
When do I need to see a doctor?
Although relatively rarely, an engorged breast may lead to some complications. Your milk ducts may get clogged. In more severe cases, you may suffer from mastitis – an infection of the breast tissue. If this happen, it is advisable to see your doctor without delay. He may probably prescribe antibiotics and order you to nurse your baby more often or alternatively pump any milk left after you fed her.