What is Engorgement?

Engorgement is when your breasts are full of breastmilk and usually occurs 2-5 post-birth when you switch from producing colostrum to mature milk. Your breasts naturally feel tender, heavier and full and breastfeeding may become difficult. 

With normal fullness, your nipple and areola remain soft and latch shouldn't be affected. Frequent nursing (on demand or at least every 2-3 hours) helps regulate supply and reduce engorgement.

Why does engorgement happen and what does it look like? 
Engorgement can look different in different mamas. Some mothers have uncomfortable fullness and flushed and warm breasts. Some mothers have severe engorgement with red, hot very uncomfortably full breasts and a low-grade fever. The breasts may appear red, tight, shiny and taut. The increased fullness will sometimes cause your nipple to flatten, making it difficult for baby to latch. 

What can I do?

Don’t worry - this won’t last forever! However, it is important to treat engorgement right away so that it doesn’t lead to mastitis or damaged nipples due to poor latch. Think of severe engorgement as stuck milk.  Getting the milk to flow from the breasts and relieve the congestion is the goal.

  • Nurse often. Aim for at least 10 feedings per 24 hours, or every 2-3 hours.

  • Apply a moist, warm compress 5-10 minutes before feeding to help milk flow or immerse breasts in a bowl or sink filled with warm water.

  • Gently massage breasts and any lumpy areas with your fingertips while feeding baby. Breast compressions during feeding can also help.

  • If baby is having difficulty latching, remove milk first using hand expression into a clean container (save in a bottle for later to feed back). Gently massage your breasts in a downward motion from top towards nipple, using your thumb and forefinger.

  • Cold compress after or between feedings for comfort. A frozen bag of vegetables wrapped in a cloth or cold cabbage leaves work well. Apply for 15-20 minutes.

  • If after feeding, your breasts remain tight and full, you can hand express or pump to relieve pressure. Express or pump only until your breast tissue feels soft to avoid overproduction.

  • If you are relying on pumping or hand expression to continually manage engorgement, or your baby continues to have difficulty latching, make an appointment with an IBCLC.


Download PDF version

Product Resources at the 'hood

Order online or stop into our Retail Store for one on one help for any of your needs. Some of the products we recommend for engorgement are:

Classes and Groups:

Breastfeeding Group - Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays at 1pm

The mama 'hood offers professional support through the breastfeeding experience from the early days well into toddlerhood. Breastfeeding Group is intended for breastfeeding or pumping mamas who are seeking breastfeeding support as well as a sense community. 

  • Social connection is one of the primary goals of this group.

  • Mamas are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences.

  • We will do a pre and post feed weigh in for your baby.

  • One of our mama 'hood IBCLC's will facilitate the group. Should you need additional support unique to your particular situation, our IBCLC will help direct you towards the proper level of support (Feeding Clinic or Private Consult).

New Mamas Group - Mondays at 1pm

This is a drop-in support group open to mamas with new babies... nursing or not, bring your little or come solo. A great place to connect with other moms in community and get support.

Private Consults: Our expert lactation team is thrilled to work with moms, babies, and families to meet their breastfeeding goals through in-office, in-home lactation or Skype consults. To schedule a consult, call the front desk at 303.643.5662.