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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Breast Engorgement
Breast engorgement means your breasts are painfully overfull of milk. This usually occurs when a mother makes more milk than her baby uses. Your breasts may become firm and swollen, which can make it hard for your baby to breastfeed. Engorged breasts can be treated at home.
Engorgement may happen:
Your breasts start making milk about 2 to 5 days after your baby is born. (Before that, they make colostrum, which contains important nutrients that your baby needs right after birth.) It's normal for your breasts to feel heavy, warm, and swollen when your milk "comes in." This early breast fullness is from the milk you make and extra blood and fluids in your breasts. Your body uses the extra fluids to make more breast milk for your baby.
This normal breast fullness will probably go away in a few days as you breastfeed and your body adjusts to your baby's needs. Your breasts may become painfully engorged if you aren't breastfeeding your baby often or if the feedings don't empty your breasts.
Your breasts will be engorged for several days if you don't or can't breastfeed after your baby is born. This will gradually go away if your breasts are not stimulated to make milk. At present, there is no approved medicine to "dry up" your milk supply and prevent engorgement.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can work with a lactation consultant. This is someone who helps mothers learn to breastfeed.
Symptoms of engorged breasts include:
If engorgement is severe, your breasts get very swollen and painful. Severe engorgement can make it hard for your baby to latch on to the breast properly. As a result:
Severe engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts and breast infection, which is called mastitis. Mastitis needs to be treated with antibiotics.
If engorgement is making it hard to breastfeed, use the following steps. They can relieve your symptoms and keep your milk flowing.
If you are not breastfeeding, use one or more of these steps to relieve discomfort:
You may be able to prevent engorgement if you keep milk moving out of your breasts and take care not to let your breasts become overfilled.
Current as of
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical ReviewSarah Marshall MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineKirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Feeding your baby: Breast and bottle. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., chap. 4, pp. 91–93. New York: Bantam.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). The puerperium. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 646–660. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
May 29, 2019
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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