Women in the postnatal period usually feel their breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender between the second and fifth day after giving birth. It is because they begin to produce greater quantities of milk. The breast milk could flow out while breastfeeding or pumping milk from the breasts. This is called breast fullness. It is a perfectly normal condition.
But if your breasts feel hard, swollen, throbbing, lumpy, uncomfortably full, or painful, you are likely engorged. The swelling may extend all the way to your armpit and you may even run a low fever.
If you do not nurse frequently or thoroughly enough to drain your breasts in the first few days after birth, you may become engorged. When your body makes large amount of milk which does not get get removed, presses on your milk ducts. Due to this reason, it is difficult for the milk to move through milk ducts.
Milk ducts carry breast milk from the glands (small sacs), where it is made, down to your nipple. Engorgement can also happen if your baby misses a feeding or you change how often you breastfeed your baby.
Your milk supply will decrease if the excess breast milk is not removed. Your baby may not be able to latch on correctly to your breast, which can cause damage to your nipples. Engorgement can also lead to mastitis (breast infection) if the milk is not removed.
Not every postpartum woman becomes engorged. Some women may find their breasts only slightly full, while others may find them really big and hard. The situation is preventable. Here is what you can do:
Fortunately, engorgement passes pretty quickly for most women. You can expect it to ease up in 24 to 48 hours if you're nursing well or pumping at least every two to three hours. If not treated, engorgement can take up to ten days to start to go away.
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