Dealing With Engorgement

What can I do if my breasts feel engorged?

At different times while breastfeeding, you might experience engorgement and feel the discomfort it causes.

Primary engorgement occurs when the breast tissues swell due to blood and lymph fluids filling the tissues surrounding the alveoli (milk making glands) in preparation for milk production. This is common after the birth on day 2, 3 or 4.

Engorgement may be uncomfortable and can last 3-5 days. There are comfort measures that you can do to alleviate some of this discomfort while waiting for the engorgement to resolve.

 Nurse well and nurse often.

  • Allow your baby to feed every 2-3 hours.
  • Let your baby nurse for 10-20 minutes per side.
  • When they suckle, the milk production begins, causing the fluid in the tissue to transform into milk.
    • It will help to switch your baby from one breast to the other and back again to help release the fluid and tension in the breast tissue.
  • If for any reason your baby cannot or will not nurse well, the breast pump can mimic some of this process of milk transfer and reduce swelling of the breast tissue.


Use warm compresses before nursing.

  • Apply warm compresses for 5-10 minutes on each breast prior to nursing or pumping
    • This opens the blood vessels and allows increased flow of fluids


Massage the breast while nursing.

  • Massaging your breast while nursing or pumping will increase milk flow.
  • Use coconut oil or olive oil while massaging.


Use cold compresses or ice packs after nursing.

  • Cold compresses or cold packs on your breasts will be comforting after nursing or pumping.
  • Apply them for 5-10 minutes on each breast to reduce swelling and inflammation in the breast tissue.


Resolving Serious Engorgement Pain:

You may need to use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, or a physician-recommended option.

Excessive treatment of engorgement may irritate or damage the breast tissue.

  • Do not exceed 10 minutes of any heat or ice treatment.
  • Do not massage with excessive pressure or for more than 5-10 minutes.


If you don’t think engorgement is causing your pain, click here to learn about other breastfeeding related pains to find the best solution for you.


Still dealing with persistent pain from engorgement while nursing? Talk to our professional healthcare staff about finding more personalized solutions for you and your baby. 

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