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Engorgement after the first week

Engorgement: it doesn’t just happen when your milk comes in.

If your baby doesn't feed and your milk banks up, your breasts can get overfull. 

baby feeding

Many mums experience engorgement when their milk comes in during the first week. But engorgement can happen at other times too. 

If milk builds up, your breasts may become full and hard and your nipples may be flattened and taut. Engorgement can occur in any part of the breast, even under the armpit.  

You might experience engorgement if: 

  • your baby goes longer between feeds or feeds for less time. 

  • they sleep for longer. 

  • they wean too quickly. 

In these cases you can relieve engorgement by feeding your baby or by expressing some milk to soften your breast. 

Relieving engorgement

Feeding your baby often and well should quickly soften your breasts. You can also:

  • Gently massage your breasts or apply something warm before feeds to help your milk flow.

  • If necessary, express for comfort after feeds. 

  • Use cold packs after a feed to reduce inflammation.

  • If you are away from your baby or somewhere where you are unable to breastfeed, you can relieve the pressure of engorgement by using a silicone milk catcher briefly. However, prolonged use of a milk catcher may make your 'too much milk' problem worse and possibly damage your nipples.

Preventing engorgement

If you find you are often engorged, you might like to: 

  • Allow your baby to feed for as long and as often as they want to, rather than time the feeds.  

  • Start each feed on alternate breasts, so your breasts are drained equally.   

  • Wake your baby for a feed if your breasts become full and uncomfortable (especially during the night). 

  • Ensure your baby is positioned and attached correctly, to maximise the amount of milk they are getting. 

If your engorgement is severe

Even with frequent feeding, some mums’ breasts continue to feel very full. The suggestions above may still be useful. If your engorgement is severe, you may find it helpful to use a breast pump to completely empty your breasts. 

If your breasts continue to fill up quickly after feeds, it may be taking a little longer than usual for them to match your baby’s needs. You may have an oversupply.  

 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022