Breastfeeding, fourth trimester, Postpartum, self-care

Three at home tricks to managing breast engorgement.

Looking back on my postpartum experience, I have to say one of the most painful experiences I had was breast engorgement the day my breast milk came in.  As I recall, my milk came in about 4 days after delivery.  I had already been discharged from the hospital and had no idea what had hit me!  I know, I know, but you are an Ob/Gyn what do you mean you had no idea what hit you.  Well, you don’t truly get it until you experience it yourself.  No one tells you how painful it is!  Even my patients!  I have never had a patient describe to me the pain of breast engorgement.  Over night, my breasts tripled in size and were rock-hard.  I literally thought they were going to explode. Ugh, it was awful.  I of course panicked.  But before YOU panic, here are three simple measures you take at home to relieve breast engorgement:

  1. Take a warm shower and gently massage your breast to hand express milk.  The key word is GENTLY.  I wanted to wring my breast out to get the milk out as fast as possible and relieve the pressure.  Not only did that attempt leave me in tears in the shower, it was also wildly unsuccessful.   It just doesn’t work that way! Use both hands and start GENTLY massaging close to the chest wall and work your hands toward the nipple.
  2. Pump or feed every two hours.  You can place a warm compress on your breast prior to breast feeding or pumping or take a warm shower just prior to feeding or pumping.  If you are pumping, try to avoid pumping for more than 20-30 minutes. Place your pump on the highest setting that is comfortable for you.  Check your pump parts to make sure your flanges are fitting correctly on your breast and that your membranes are correctly placed within the pump.  Don’t forget to attach the bottles to the flanges!  Yes, in a late night stupor I forgot to do that.  Talk about crying over spilled milk!  If you are breastfeeding, be sure that your little one is latching well, if you are experiencing trouble with latching contact a lactation consultant for hands on help.
  3. Ibuprofen 600mg – 800mg every 6-8 hours will decrease inflammation, as well as help manage some of the pain.  Remember to avoid taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach.

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