Engorgement is what happens to your breasts as your milk supply begins to increase. This is often referred to as your milk "coming in." Approximately 48 to 72 hours after the baby is born, you will begin to feel your breasts becoming fuller. In addition to the milk that is there, there is additional fluid in your breast tissue and extra blood flow to the breasts left over from pregnancy. All this together can add up to a lot of fullness, and sometimes discomfort. (The answer to the commonly asked "Is there anything in there?" question is yes!)
Some moms may experience minimal engorgement, while others might experience moderate and sometimes even severe engorgement. I like to explain to moms that this is simply a management issue! There are a few very helpful tips to keep in mind to help ease the discomfort you might be experiencing with the arrival of your milk.
Engorgement symptoms include:
- A feeling of warmth or feeling flushed
- Increased thirst
- Noticeable fullness and heaviness of her breasts
- Weepy or tearful feelings—thanks to all the hormonal changes she is experiencing
- That she can hear Baby swallowing while nursing
- An increase in Baby's wet and soiled diapers
As your breasts are filling, consider these engorgement treatments:
- Feed the baby frequently.
- Use a warm compress on your breasts before feeding to help soften them.
- When done nursing, use ice packs on your breasts to help reduce swelling.
- Use green cabbage leaves to reduce swelling. (Keep a head of green cabbage cold in the fridge. When you're done nursing, take a leaf, rinse with cold water and place on breasts anywhere there is swelling. This can be done in conjunction with the ice. Leave in place for about 15-20 minutes. If your nipples are sore, avoid placing the cabbage leaves on the nipples. Note: Do not use if you are allergic to sulfa medications.)
- Pay attention to how Baby is latching—oftentimes it can be a bit of a challenge to achieve a deep latch with engorgement.