Engorgement is one common issue of breastfeeding, experienced by every breastfeeding mother. When breasts fill uncomfortably with milk and expand dramatically and painfully, your breasts are engorged. Engorgement generally occurs in the first days after giving birth as the mother’s milk supply revs into high gear. After this initial engorgement, milk supply levels off and you shouldn’t experience these symptoms. Engorgement could recur if you reduce breastfeeding frequency, but you can take steps to minimize this situation.
Breastfeed your newborn frequently -- approximately every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night, advises the Ask Dr. Sears website. Offer both sides at every feeding to empty both breasts effectively.
Allow your baby to nurse for at least 15 minutes on each side for adequate time at the breast, advises Sutter Health. When a mother experiences sore nipples, experts recommend limiting breastfeeding time to 5 or 10 minutes per breast, but for preventing engorgement do not limit breastfeeding time.
Pump breast milk for a few minutes to express some milk and reduce engorgement pressure. Pumping for a short time can make you more comfortable and it can make it easier for your baby to latch on if engorgement is making getting a good latch difficult.
Avoid skipping nursing to avoid engorgement. If your baby skips a feeding due to supplementation or because she sleeps through an overnight feeding, pump to keep your breasts from becoming uncomfortably full.
Wean slowly if you wish to stop breastfeeding, advises Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. A fast reduction in your current level of breastfeeding will lead to uncomfortable engorgement. Instead, cut out one feeding every 2 or 3 days. By spreading out the weaning process, you allow your breasts time to adjust to the reduction without engorging.