Engorged breasts and breastfeeding

Baby feedingEngorgement is a rather fruity sounding word for when your breasts feel huge, hard and possibly a little leaky - a bit like watermelons.

Your breasts become engorged when you start breastfeeding, usually about two to five days after giving birth. It is referred to as your milk 'coming in', which may make you wonder just what your baby has been feeding on before this. Well, that would be colostrum (an antibody-packed creamy, yellow 'pre-milk', which is much richer in nutrients than regular breastmilk).

Some women don't really notice their milk coming in, but others suddenly find themselves sporting bosoms of quite gargantuan proportions.

This initial breast engorgement when your milk is coming in should only last a day or two but you may find things a rather hot and tender meanwhile.

Once you have got breastfeeding established, your breasts can feel full when it is time to feed your baby. If this is not relieved by feeding your baby or expressing milk, your breasts may become taut and painful.

Severely engorged breasts can cause achiness and if it remains unrelieved it can lead to blocked ducts and even mastitis - and it may reduce breastmilk production.

How to relieve or avoid engorged breasts

  • Feed your baby frequently
  • Try to feed from both breasts until they feel empty, even though it might be difficult or hurt a bit
  • Use cold compresses on your breasts between feeds or put some old faithful cabbage leaves in your bra
  • If you are separated from your baby because of work, for example, express milk to relieve the pressure building up in your breasts
  • Massaging your breast in the direction of your nipple can help drain milk from the ducts

What Mumsnetters say about engorgement

  • Three days after giving birth, my norks swelled up – from melons to watermelons – rock hard and leaky. motherinferior
  • Cabbage leaves! Put the cabbage in the fridge to cool, then peel off a leaf and put it around your breast, inside your bra. Works wonders. juuule
  • Good sucking from your babe will help you out. Engorgement is miserable but it should pass really quickly. haditfortheday

And, if your breasts are now so pornstar-implant-rigid that your baby has trouble latching on:

  • Use your hand to express off a little milk first or put a warm flannel on your breast before a feed to soften things up a little. If all else fails, try feeding in the bath. Porpoise


Last updated: over 1 year ago