Prevent Engorged Breasts | St. Luke's Hospital

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What Do I Do When My Breasts Are Full Or Engorged?

Fullness/Engorgement begins between 2-5 days after delivery and usually lasts for 2-4 days. It is caused by your milk increasing, but also from extra fluid, swelling to your breasts.

  • Breastfeed your baby every 1-3 hours. The more you nurse baby, the more relief you get.
  • Avoid giving any formula unless it is for medical reasons. You want baby to nurse often to relieve you.
  • Baby should have a full lower areolar latch with a wide open mouth. (Baby removes more milk.)
  • Change nursing positions so baby's nose is pointed toward the full firm area of your breast.
  • If the breast is too hard to latch, use warm moist cloths for 10 minutes before breastfeeding.
  • Pump or hand express for a few minutes before nursing to soften your breast so baby can latch.
  • Use gentle breast massage before and during the feeding.
  • Nurse baby on the first breast to soften, this may be 10-20 minutes and then offer the second breast.
  • Try to nurse both breasts at each feeding. Repeat if baby is still hungry.
  • If breasts still feel very full after breastfeeding, or baby only nursed one side or nursed for a short time, pump both breasts 15-20 minutes (remember to use massage).
  • If baby still cannot latch, pump your breasts every 1-3 hours (for 15-20 minutes) to remove milk and decrease engorgement (remember to use massage).
  • Feed baby your pumped milk with a slow flow nipple. ( ½ - 1 ½ oz = 15-45ml every 1-3 hours)
  • Apply cold clothes or washed green cabbage leaves after each feeding/pumping for 10-15 minutes after nursing or pumping to decrease the pain and swelling of your breasts.

Call St. Luke's lactation services with more questions or if baby cannot latch well at (319) 369-8944.