A woman would experience several physical and psychological changes in her body both before and after pregnancy. And one such physical change that she would most likely experience right after delivery is breast engorgement.
Nothing to be worried about for this is not an issue that a new mother has to deal with. Rather, it is a normal process that happens to every new mother post her delivery. However, if it persists over a period of time, she may need to check with a doctor about the same.
What Exactly is Breast Engorgement?
Right after delivery, the breasts in a woman’s body start producing milk for the new born baby. In some women, the production of milk would be abundant and tend to exceed the normal level. In this case, the breast would become engorged and look very heavy.
Breast engorgement would usually stop after the first 3 days of delivery as the body gets used to the milk production and balances it with the baby’s needs. The breasts would also return to their normal shape and size during this period. For some women, however, the breasts appear engorged and heavy even after a few weeks.
Symptoms You Need to Look Out For
Engorged breasts are quite common in women post delivery and there is no need to be worried about the same. However, that said and done, a doctor’s checkup and diagnosis would clear doubts of health related issues if any.
Accordingly, the symptoms related to engorged breasts include tenderness, lumpiness, swelling, and pain around the area; swollen lymph nodes (armpit region), and hard nipples or areola. Engorged breasts can also cause extreme discomfort, pain and even fever in certain women.
Effective Remedies for Breast Engorgement
A doctor’s advice would be the first best option for treating breast engorgement. However, here are some natural remedies that can provide relief from the issue as well.
Massaging the Breasts
Gently massage the engorged breast until it becomes soft again. This would relieve you from the pain and discomfort that accompany a hard, swollen breast. Do not worry if some milk comes out in the process. Massage the engorged breast at regular intervals for better results.
If your breasts tend to become engorged, try nursing your baby. As you breast feed your infant, your breasts would become light again. The best option would be to feed your baby once every 2 hours or so to prevent the breasts from hardening again. You can also use alternate sides while breast feeding your baby in order to prevent breast engorgement on either side.
Storing the Milk
In case your baby does not want any more milk and your breasts still remain engorged, you can squeeze out the milk from both breasts into a bottle and use the same to feed your baby later on (only within 2 hours). Accordingly, there are pumps available in the market for such purposes and you can use a pump to remove excess milk from your breasts.
Make it a point to wear loose brassieres and dresses so that the breasts do not get compressed when you sleep or lie down. Tight clothing would also be uncomfortable and would press your breasts harder, causing extreme pain in the process.
An age old remedy to treat engorged breasts involves placing cold cabbage leaves inside the bras. Holes are cut in the center for the nipples to get air. The rest of the breast is covered by the cabbage leaf and a bra is worn over this arrangement. This remedy is known to provide relief from engorged breasts.
Sometimes the milk in an engorged breast solidifies and hence refuses to come out even during feeding time. This could cause extreme pain and discomfort to the mother. In these cases, it is considered best to cover the breasts with a wet washcloth (dipped in hot water) just before breastfeeding. The warmth of the cloth would ease the flow of milk and thus remove milk clots if any.