Engorgement sometimes occurs in the first week following birth, usually around the time that the full milk supply starts to “come in”. While engorgement is commonly experienced by many new parents, it’s something that ideally never occurs, especially if breastfeeding is going well in the early days.
Engorgement can be exacerbated by:
IV fluids during labor - these fluids add to the overall fluid in the body, including breast tissue, and put pressure on milk ducts - making the milk flow less easily.
Breastfeeding challenges in the early days. If breastfeeding hurts, if latch is ineffective, or any other challenge leads to a baby removing less milk from the breast, this can cause the milk to remain in the breast and cause pain.
In addition to making sure that you have the most effective latch (see previous blog posts), here are our favorite resources for relieving engorgement:
Excellent Engorgement Tips From KellyMom
Massage and Hand Expression video by Maya Bolman
Another fantastic Hand Expression Video - by Global Health Media
In addition to helping relieve engorgement, hand expression is an incredibly valuable skill to know! It's extremely helpful if you need to:
Express colostrum (which is sticky and tends to get stuck on pump parts!) - you can hand express directly into a spoon or small cup, and have enough to fill your baby's tiny tummy for a feeding!
For getting milk in general. It’s a great add-on to a pumping routine later in your parenting journey, or a great skill to know if you find yourself without power or without your pump!