Moms Need More Information About Engorgment and Breastmilk Development
The technical definition of engorgement is a swelling of the breasts caused by expanding veins and the pressure of new milk.
Far too many mothers suffer from engorgement mainly because they get so little information about the development of breastmilk and what to do when you breast milk “comes in”.
In reality, engorgement is the next big challenge in a new mother’s life. When a new mom wakes at 2AM with painfully full breasts, it feels like she is about to give birth again, but through your nipple this time.
Most first time moms can be truly caught off guard. They’ve made it through the birthing process, they got started with care and feeding of their new baby, and they even feel a little less tired than they did right after delivery. THEN, the fullness begins, milk begins to leak and one or both breasts feel hot. Within a couple of hours, new mommy is really hurting, confused, and it’s way too late at night to call anyone for help. By 3AM she is seriously frightened, and now the baby can’t even latch on because her breasts are as hard as a June watermelon.
At this point, both the hungry baby and frightened mommy are both crying.
Many women will have some level of engorgement, somewhere between two to six days after delivery. Right after birth, the mother produces colostrum, that important yellow, sticky fluid that is produced by the breasts to provide nutrition and critical immunity for her baby.
Engorgement usually happens when the breasts switch from early colostrum to mature milk, (when the milk “comes in”). However, engorgement can also happen later, if a breast pumping or breast feeding mom misses several nursings and when she is not pumping enough.
Unfortunately, a new mom can suffer serious pain and fear, when she is not prepared, First-time mothers suffer most often from engorgement than second and third time moms, because of the time it takes for the mature milk to “come in” usually shortens with each child. Also, an experienced mom remembers her first engorgement and is probably prepared.
Engorged breasts become more prone to infections, and hopefully new moms are given enough information by their OB/GYN or at the hospital about how to avoid and/or reduce engorgement.
The best way to prevent engorgement is to nurse often. Moms in the know, will tell you not to go more than three hours without nursing and not to skip night feedings.
If your breasts get painfully engorged and your baby can’t latch on, try using a breast pump to relieve the pressure. A hand pump, an electric pump or even expressing by hand will relieve the pressure enough to allow your baby to latch. After baby is able to breastfeed, the pressure will subside temporarily.
Use warm compresses relieve pain, but cold compresses reduce swelling and pressure. Booby Tubes can be warmed or chilled to relieve the pain of engorgement.
Engorgement will last about 24 to 48 hours. This may not seem like a long time, but to a mother in pain, it is an eternity. Especially considering that this lady has just carried a baby for 9 months, been in labor, and given birth. That is a lot of stuff for a body to survive.
Also, some women find a warm shower just before a feeding helps relieve some discomfort and facilitate let down. Massaging the breasts as the baby nurses can help get out as much milk as possible.