Though breastfeeding is an essential requirement for infants, as it provides them all the necessary nutrients, the exercise can be uncomfortable for many new mothers, thanks to the problem of breast engorgement.
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Though this is not a permanent concern and the mother gets over it as she gets used to the art of breastfeeding, it can be painful till the time it lasts.
What Is Breast Engorgement?
Lactating mothers face breast engorgement issue when their breasts become swollen, hard and lumpy because the milk produced within is not pumped out sufficiently. The excess milk in the breast forms a lump, causing pain.
Not that all lactating mothers experience breast engorgement. While some might feel them to be heavy, for others it could be leaky. The swelling can also cause fever and may need medical attention.
Hence, it is better not to ignore the symptoms of breast engorgement and take curative and preventive measures (even better) to avoid the discomfort.
Causes Of Breast Engorgement
These are some of the common reasons for breast engorgement:
1. When the milk formation happens for the first time
2. When the new mother fails to pump milk adequately because of inexperience
3. Suddenly stopping breastfeeding
4. Less breastfeeding by the infant, which can happen when he/she is nearing the solid-food stage or if he/she is ill and has a poor appetite.
Symptoms Of Breast Engorgement
What are the common symptoms of breast engorgement?
1. Breasts become swollen, hard, lumpy and also warm.
2. The areola around the nipple becomes hard and the nipples get flattened, causing the baby to feel difficulty in sucking
3. Slight fever
4. Soft lymph nodes in the armpits
Treating Breast Engorgement
1. Apply warm compress on the breasts a few minutes before feeding your baby. This will soften the breasts and cause less pain while feeding.
2. Use hand or a breast pump to leak out some of the milk from both breasts, so that the pressure reduces.
3. Breastfeed your child more. If the baby doesn't show interest in feeding much, use a pump to drain out a little milk from the breasts.
4. Consult a doctor for suitable medication.
5. Use a cold compress to reduce your breasts' swelling. Cold cabbage leaves are good in this, but do not overuse them, as they can reduce the production of milk.
6. Wear a comfortable bra, so that your breasts do not get stressed.
7. Have a healthy diet, so that the internal infection caused by engorgement is killed.
Preventing Breast Engorgement
Since prevention is better than cure, you can try the following steps to prevent the occurrence of breast engorgement:
1. Feed your baby often, even before the problem of breast engorgement develops.
2. Also ensure that your baby is properly sucking in the milk and that the exercise is not becoming futile. It won't help either you or your baby.
3. Empty one breast before switching your baby to the other one. This will keep things in balance. To understand whether one of the breasts has become empty, follow your baby's instincts. If the baby's feeding has slowed down or if the baby is not swallowing, you can be sure.
4. Do not abruptly stop your baby's feeding. It is a perfect recipe for developing engorged breasts.