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Engorgement, or My Breasts Feel Like They Are Going to Explode

It's normal for your breasts to become larger and heavier right after birth, both when they are preparing for your milk to come in and when your milk first comes in. This fullness will usually decrease within the first couple of weeks after you establish a good breastfeeding routine. However, if your breasts produce too much milk and they become hard, painful, and taut, it may be engorgement.
Engorgement can occur for many reasons, including:
  • Infrequent or shortened feedings where the baby is not getting enough milk out
  • Your baby is not latching on correctly and is not able to get enough milk
  • Not pumping when you are unable to nurse your baby at a time you usually breastfeed
  • A sudden reduction in your nursing or pumping schedule
  • Your baby sleeps through nighttime feedings.
One of the best ways to help prevent engorgement is to make sure to empty your breasts by feeding your baby often.
To help relieve engorgement, try expressing some milk from your breasts before you begin to nurse. It can sometimes be difficult for your baby to latch on when your breasts are fully engorged. Expressing some of the milk can help soften your nipple so that your little one can latch on properly.
While you are nursing, massage your breasts to help move the milk down them. While pumping can work great to relieve the pressure temporarily, it will merely add to the problem, as it will increase your milk production.
You can also help to treat swollen, painful breasts by using ice packs before and between feedings.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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