Just after giving birth, your body naturally begins to prepare for
breastfeeding. During this time, breast engorgement can occur and your
breasts may swell to sizes you can't believe and they may feel as hard
as a rock.Breast engorgement happens in every pregnancy and will naturally resolve itself as you stop breastfeeding, as the milk that the breast was engorged with to feed your baby will dry up.
Causes of Breast Engorgement
After giving birth, the female body naturally produces milk - it is nature's way of making sure that there is nourishment readily available for the newborn baby! Even if you plan to bottle-feed, you will still produce milk. Milk is released into the breasts and via lactation becomes available to the baby who, with its sucking reflex, will suck the milk out of the nipple. Nipple stimulation from a shirt or bra can cause milk let-down, and with it a bit of leakage, and/or it will trigger the breasts to produce more milk. A baby's cries can also cause milk let-down.
If the baby is not dining regularly, the milk will store up in the breasts and cause them to grow.
Important Facts About Breast Engorgement
Whether breast feeding or not, breast engorgement should take only a few days to subside. When breast feeding, engorgement will be replaced with a more efficient supply of milk as determined by the time the baby spends on the breast and the amount of milk needed per feeding. When not breastfeeding, engorgement will slowly pass as the body can tell the milk is not being used.
In some cases, breast engorgement can lead to infection of the milk ducts. So, if your breasts feel hot, off-color liquid is seeping from the nipple(s), you has a fever, make sure to talk to your treating obstetrician!
Treatment for Breast Engorgement
When the baby is feeding, you should feel free to use warm compresses to relieve some of the pain associated with breast engorgement. Cold compresses used after the warm compress can relieve even more discomfort. While cold compresses can be used at any time, however, stay away from warm compresses when you are not feeding as they cause milk let-down and more milk production.
Breast pumps or hand milk expression can relieve pressure associated with breast engorgement. For women who are not nursing, wearing a tight fitting bra can work as a pressure bandage, of sorts, and relieves pain. Avoiding nipple stimulation can also help convince breasts that milk production is not needed.