Jada Shapiro is a maternal health expert and the founder of boober, where expectant parents and new families find on-demand expert care and high-quality classes, pregnancy to postpartum.
Engorgement is defined as swelling of the breasts or chest when the milk comes in. The breasts/chest can feel heavy, warm to hot, very full and quite painful for some people.
Here are our top seven tips for avoiding engorgement and how to treat it if you do experience this uncomfortable, but usually temporary experience.
Frequent nursing helps minimize the likelihood of engorgement. In the first few days, you’ll want to nurse 8-15 times per day, as frequently as every 60-90 minutes or whenever the baby shows the signs of hunger.
If we follow our baby’s lead, we can minimize engorgement. The signs of hunger include just waking up, stirring, mouth motion, lip smacking, sticking their tongue out, and turning their head side to side. If you feed your baby at these early signs of hunger, they’re easier to feed and this will help keep your milk flowing.
You may hear that you should nurse for a certain amount of time on each breast, but as long as you give roughly equal time to each side, your baby will show you they’re full. It's often best to use your baby's feeding patterns as a cue so that your body learns to meet this demand.
If you do, hand express or pump your milk to be sure that you don’t get too full.
If you are always feeling engorged after you nurse your little one, reach out to a lactation consultant. It may be that the latch is not ideal and the baby is not able to extract enough milk, leaving you feeling engorged and your baby still hungry for more.
Put a cool compress on your breast (around the nipple) before feeding to reduce swelling.
If latching is challenging, express a small amount of milk, just enough to soften the breast tissue. Don’t over-express milk or you’ll make even more milk!
Some people find cool cabbage leaves placed inside your bra can help reduce and relieve engorgement.
Reverse Pressure Softening can help as well.
We hope these tips will help you manage any engorgement you might experience! If you can’t latch due to your engorgement or find that your engorgement does not go away in a few days, reaching out for lactation help can make a huge difference!
A mighty duo for relief from engorgement pain as well as breast and chest tenderness associated with frequent breastfeeding and pumping.
Jada founded boober to empower expectant and new parents to transform their pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences and outcomes through expert education and easy access to qualified maternal healthcare providers.
She also founded Birth Day Presence, NYC’s most trusted source for birth workers and new parents’ education, which has supported parents since 2002. She is a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, birth photographer, mother, and step-mother.
Jada has assisted hundreds of births for first-time parents, A-list celebrities, and everyone in between. She advises leading actors about childbirth and breastfeeding for major films and is a sought-out media expert on pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, lactation, and newborn parenting.
artwork: louise bourgeois
This piece was originally published on 1.13.2021 with the title "Top Tips for Avoiding Engorgement with boober Founder Jada Shapiro". It has been lightly edited and reformatted.