What is breast engorgement and what does it mean to have clogged milk ducts?
Your breasts grew and grew during pregnancy, your milk came in. About three days after giving birth, your breasts will become rock hard as your milk supply ratchets up — so much so that even putting on a bra can hurt. Around two-thirds of all women experience breast engorgement during those initial days postpartum.
This tends to be more of an issue for first-time moms than seasoned ones, possibly because your breasts have been there, done that before, and are better prepared.
How to treat breast engorgement
The good news is that breast engorgement only lasts 24 to 48 hours as you and your baby get into a breastfeeding groove. The worst pain should subside within a couple of days and be virtually gone within a few weeks of breastfeeding.
Until then, ease discomfort by nursing frequently, using a warm compress before feeding and a cold compress after, massaging your breasts while feeding, hand expression, switching up positions, and wearing a well-fitting nursing bra.
What are leaking breasts?
Those first few weeks of nursing are almost always very damp ones, as your milk’s supply-and-demand cycle gets up and running. These leaks can spring up anytime, anywhere, but you’re most likely to leak when you hear or even think about your baby, which can stimulate a letdown.
How to treat leaking breasts
This problem should get better within four to six weeks, as your baby’s milk demands begin matching up with your supply. But while you’re waiting for a dryer day to dawn, wear nursing pads (and keep a few extras on you).
Don’t use ones with plastic or waterproof liners, as they can cause nipple irritation. Disposables, or washable cotton pads, are better.
You may be tempted to pump to prevent leaking, but this will just stimulate your breasts to make more milk. Once your supply is well-established after the first few weeks, you can try applying pressure to your breasts to stem the tide.
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Clogged milk ducts
What are clogged milk ducts? Sometimes a milk duct can become clogged, causing milk to back up and resulting in a red and tender lump. Although a clogged duct itself isn’t serious, it can lead to a breast infection if you ignore it.
How to treat clogged milk ducts
Don’t give up! Breastfeeding keeps milk flowing, which will eventually unclog the duct. In the meantime, apply a warm compress before each feeding, and massage the lump while you’re nursing.
Once your baby is done, drain the affected breast, either manually or with a breast pump. You can help prevent blocked ducts by soaking your breasts several times a day with warm water.
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