It’s normal for mothers’ breasts to become larger, heavier and tender when mature milk comes in. This fullness can sometimes lead to engorgement. Engorgement is the rapid filling of the breast with milk. If not emptied often enough, milk can build up and get blocked by the swelling of breast tissue.
Engorgement causes breasts to feel very firm and painful. Mothers may also notice warmth, redness, flattening of the nipple and a low-grade fever. If not addressed, engorgement can lead to plugged ducts, mastitis and supply issues. Engorgement can be prevented by:
- Ensuring baby has a good latch at each feeding,
- Massaging any areas that feel full or firm while baby is nursing.
- Expressing milk by hand or with a pump if breasts are too full for the baby to latch on.
- Using ice packs on the breast after feeding to lessen inflammation.
“If a mom does get engorged, I encourage her to take a warm shower, massage and hand express her milk. Once milk starts to flow, she should nurse her baby as much as she can get baby to feed,” Pritchett says. “If she can only get baby to feed on one side, then she can pump a enough from the other side to get comfortable.”
If these steps don’t work, Pritchett says to contact a lactation consultation for assistance. Every mother who gives birth at Tidelands Health can benefit from the help of a lactation consultant, one of the reasons why Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital has earned the prestigious designation of Baby Friendly, an initiative created by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to promote breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding.