- In This Feature
- Optimizing Breastfeeding
- What Are the Signs that My Body Is Making Milk?
- What Is Normal Engorgement?
- What if Normal Primary Engorgement Goes Untreated?
- What Is Abnormal Engorgement?
- How Do I Treat Engorgement?
- How Do I Build a Strong Milk Supply?
- Is There Anything That Will Interfere with My Milk Supply?
- The ABCs of Building a Milk Supply
What Is Abnormal Engorgement?
Most mothers experience the breast fullness and warmth of primary engorgement three to five days after giving birth. This is a good sign! Breast fullness harkens the arrival of your mature milk and is an indication that your body is working well. It is important to know how to navigate through this sometimes troublesome period so that you can sail smoothly into the future with your baby. Left unchecked, the normal symptoms of primary engorgement can develop into a full-blown problem.
What started out as normal engorgement for Robin quickly progressed into over engorgement. By the time Robin called me for help, she was in so much pain that she had difficulty talking. Robin's breasts were so swollen and so engorged that when I touched them during my exam, my fingers left visible indentations on her breasts. Robin explained that her milk had come in the day before and that her son Ray had been breastfeeding irregularly overnight. Robin's breasts became rock hard with no discernable nipple, making it virtually impossible for her son to attach for feeding. Robin also had a low-grade fever, a sign that her whole body was responding to the severe inflammation of her breasts.
Over the next hour, we alternated cold and heat treatments. Once the swelling abated a bit, Robin was able to pump some milk with an electric breast pump. To minimize pulling her already distended breast and nipple tissue, I instructed Robin to keep the suction on the pump low. Finally, Robin's baby was able to attach and effectively breastfeed using a nipple shield. Afterward, we once again iced Robin's breasts. Robin continued this plan until her breasts healed from the over engorgement.
Part of the reason Robin experienced such exaggerated engorgement was that Ray was her second child. Experienced mothers can expect their mature milk sooner and in greater volume than first-time mothers. Whether you are having your first baby or your fifth, it is important to know how to treat your symptoms of engorgement well before the engorgement develops into an excruciating problem.