Breastfeeding in the early weeks has to be one of the hardest and sometimes most painful things you'll go through (right along with childbirth). Don't get me wrong, it's one of the most amazing things ever and yes, some mamas really don't battle much pain, but majority of us do. However it is SO worth it.
I try to tell each mama that I work with or speak to about breastfeeding that once you make it through those first six weeks, things start to get SO much easier. Suddenly all of the aches and pains just start to fade away and you slowly begin to feel like a pro at this nursing or pumping thing. Those first six weeks are trying for all mamas, but it's so worth it to stick it out.
One of the most common things for a newly breastfeeding mama to battle is engorgement. What exactly is engorgement? Well, imagine that your breast just suddenly turned into a rock. Yes, a rock. It may be a hard, lumpy rock or a hard, hot to the touch rock.
Some common signs of engorgement:
- Hard and uncomfortable breast
- Hot to the touch breast
- Red spots on the breast
- Lump(s) within a hard breast
- A breast that is so full baby has trouble latching (makes it hard for the nipple to protrude out)
- A low to mild fever
- Shooting pains within the breast
What exactly is engorgement?
Engorgement is basically when there's just too much milk in the breast and it is not emptying fast enough. When too much milk gets trapped in there, milk ducts can become clogged and therefore your breast somewhat "backs up" (like a clogged toilet) and becomes engorged. While having too much milk sounds like a blessing (and yes in some ways it is) it does often come with issues that have to be handled correctly.
How do you treat engorgement?
- Relieve the breast. This is tricky because if you empty the breast too much, then you will just make more milk and add to the problem. The best thing is to nurse as usual and maybe just add one pump session a day to empty.
- Use heat. Use a hot compress on the breast before a feeding as the heat helps aid the milk through the ducts. Your milk may move more freely and easily if heat was applied. Try our breast comfort packs for this!
- Use cold. Use cold AFTER you have pumped or nursed to helped maintain any pain. Think of it as icing your breasts just as you would a sore muscle. Our breast comfort packs can be used cold as well!
- Massage the breast. Massage the breast during feedings or pumping sessions to help relieve any lumps or clogged ducts. If you feel a specific lump somewhere, use a circular motion while feeding to try and break down the lump and get the milk moving.
- Express a little before you nurse. This is some of the best advice. Hand express or pump out about an oz or so BEFORE you feed to soften the breast and make the latch easier for baby. This is an easy way to build up a stash of frozen milk and also to help make nursing more comfortable during engorgement.
- Soak. I always find a hot tub soak with hot towels on your breasts or our breast comfort packs on your breasts, will help aid in pains.
- Restrict tight clothing. Clothing that is too tight and restrictive may create more discomfort and issues. Choose looser clothes.
- Nurse away. Don't let any issues keep you from nursing. In fact nursing is exactly what you need to do to cure the issue.
If you are struggling through the hard, long days of breastfeeding in those first few weeks I am right there with you in all of the pains, exhaustion and more. I've been in your shoes a few times and I know just what it feels like and how badly you may feel like giving up. But coming from someone who always stuck it out another day and then eventually another week and so on, I can tell you breastfeeding is the most amazing thing! You may even end up like I was and breastfeeding a toddler while making pancakes and multitasking like a pro. It just comes that easy eventually!
Don't hesitate to email us for services on online breastfeeding counseling.