I’ve partnered with Lansinoh for this post. All opinions are my own.
Engorgement. There’s possibly nothing I hate more. I have suffered through it during the first few weeks of breastfeeding with each of my babies. Engorgement will affect each breastfeeding mom differently. I’ve talked to some moms who hardly noticed this period while others (like myself) suffer for days, sometimes weeks, with painful symptoms.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom thinking of calling it quits, near tears right now suffering through this stage of breastfeeding, know that I’ve been there. I’ve wanted to give up because the pain was so bad. I have been known to say that I’d rather go through natural childbirth again than suffer through a week of engorgement. The sucky truth about breastfeeding is that it’s not always pleasant. It is ROUGH and if you’re going through it right now, I feel for you! If you are currently engorged, pay careful attention that your breasts aren’t developing hard spots. If they do, you are probably suffering from a plugged duct which could turn into mastitis. Don’t ignore a plugged duct! Better yet, be proactive about treating the engorgement in order to hopefully prevent a plugged duct.
My youngest is about two weeks old and although I’ve still been dealing with engorgement, it’s been much better this time around compared to the 3 times prior. I’ve learned a few things with each new baby that have helped me. Here are some helpful tips and tricks I wanted to share that have helped me during this phase. *Please note, I am not a doctor or medical professional. This is not medical advice.*
One of the best things you can do for engorgement is to feed your baby as often as he/she desires and for as long as they’d like. I don’t watch the clock while breastfeeding. If my baby is showing any indication of being hungry, I offer them my breast right away….and they usually take it enthusiastically!
Newborn babies have small stomachs and breast milk is easily digested, which means they will be hungry often. In the evenings, a lot of times my babies will “cluster feed” where they want to nurse nearly every hour. You might feel like all you accomplish during the first few weeks is breastfeeding. This is normal and won’t last forever.
I like to think that it’s nature’s way of ensuring new mothers get off of their feet and rest frequently.
When I had my first baby, I didn’t pump at all because I was afraid that doing so would mean I’d always produce too much milk and subsequently have to pump every single day. As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t have plans to leave my baby very often, so I didn’t think I needed to bother pumping. I was engorged for well over a week. It was so uncomfortable and I ended up with plugged ducts that were very painful and recurrent.
When I had my second child, again I resisted pumping, fearing too much milk. About a week after giving birth, I developed mastitis. I felt HORRIBLE and of course, it was right as my husband needed to head back to work. I have no doubt that I got mastitis because I was so extremely engorged. It was horrible, to say the least. After my fight with mastitis, I started pumping!
By the time I had my third child, I realized that I needed to pump for relief from the pain and discomfort of engorgement and to prevent plugged ducts and mastitis. I also realized that it was good to have a stockpile of breast milk in my deep freezer. Pumping when my breasts felt full (or to drain them after my baby was finished nursing) helped so much.
I’m 2 weeks into breastfeeding my newest addition and find that I’m pumping out an average of 4-5 ounces of milk 3-4 times a day (morning, mid-day, before bed). I already have quit the stash of milk built up in my freezer and my engorgement phase has never been better! While I admit that I sometimes wish I didn’t need to pump as frequently, I would much rather do that than live in pain.
I own both the Lansinoh Smart Pump Double Electric Breast Pump and the Lansinoh SignaturePro Double Electric Breast Pump and they have both been great pumps! The main difference is that the Smart Pump costs a little bit more but also connects with the Lansinoh app to help you track your pumping and feeding sessions. You can click the links above to read full reviews of each. A quality double electric breast pump is one of my must-have baby gear items!
I strongly believe in using natural remedies, whenever possible. I use homeopathic medicines a lot in our family. Many people use the words homeopathic and natural interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The (very) short way of explaining how homeopathic remedies work is that you are ingesting something that would cause the symptoms you are suffering from if you took it in a large quantity.
Homeopathic tablets are diluted down to an extremely small amount so that instead of causing the symptoms it helps your body’s immune system recognize the need to address the issue. When you use homeopathic remedies, you need to choose the correct one(s) based on your specific symptoms. The following is a list of homeopathic remedies I have found to be useful during engorgement.
- Belladonna: Use this remedy if your breasts are hot to touch, engorged, swollen and/or are throbbing with pain. The breast may have red streaks like sun rays extending out from the nipple.
- Phytolacca: If your breasts feel lumpy, have hard knots or nodules, or your nipples feel sore, try Phytolacca. You may have extreme pain in your breast when your baby latches on. Pain way extend all the way to the armpit. I have used Phytolacca to successfully treat mastitis and plugged ducts in the past.
- Arnica: Use this remedy to treat inflammation and if you feel bruised, sore, achy, and/or tender.
- Bryonia: If your breasts are hard & painful due to accumulation of milk, try Bryonia.
When your breasts are swollen and warm from engorgement, cold therapy can do wonders! Using a cold pack on your breasts for 15-20 minutes can reduce inflammation and bring fast relief. I love the Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Packs for this. They can be used cold to relieve engorgement, swelling, and pain (plus you can also use them hot to relieve plugged ducts, mastitis, and to encourage let-down). This is the first time breastfeeding that I’ve used them and I don’t know what I did before them! They are much more comfortable that using ice or another hard ice pack plus I’m sure I’ll continue to use them long after I’m done breastfeeding.
Believe it or not, cold cabbage leaves are a great way to combat engorgement! Rinse the leaves, use a rolling pin to crush the veins, then apply to your breasts for 15-20 minutes. It’s important to note that cabbage leaves will decrease milk supply, so discontinue use when you have relief from the engorgement.
Because they can decrease milk supply, I wouldn’t recommend this method if you are actively trying to pump a large amount so you’ll have a good stockpile for later. (As a side note, this article might help you if you’re looking for ways to increase your milk supply.) I used cabbage leaves with my first 3 babies and it worked great for me. With my 4th child I found that pumping and other methods mentioned in this post were enough that I didn’t need to use the cabbage.
Try Sunflower Lecithin
I think one of my issues stems from milk being thicker and not flowing as freely through my milk ducts. While I have no idea the cause of this for me, I found a solution that works to get the milk flowing again — sunflower lecithin! I started purchasing this with my 4th child after another annoying milk bleb and the blebs and plugged ducts finally stopped! I took it until he was about 4-5 months old and my milk supply had regulated and breastfeeding was going really well for us. Now that I’m expecting my 5th baby, I plan to take sunflower lecithin regularly for the first 4-5 months to prevent the problem before it even starts and then of course again if I start to feel those painful lumps start.