As amazing as breastfeeding can be, it can also be pretty darn awful at times. Any mom who has nursed for any length of time knows that hell hath no fury like a mom dealing with the pain of engorged breasts, something most moms deal with it at some point or another. Luckily, there are a number of ways to relieve painful engorgement so that you can breastfeed enjoyably without shooting pain or swollen breasts.
Although engorgement can happen for a variety of reasons, learning how to handle it is a useful tool that every nursing mom should know. The most common reasons for engorgement, other than when your milk first comes in, are an oversupply of milk, blocked ducts, or simply not nursing enough, according to Baby Center.
Luckily, regardless of the reason for engorgement, you can use most or all of the following tips to help relieve the pain so that you and your baby can nurse more easily and comfortably. Engorgement, though a common predicament, is usually a sign that something isn't right with your supply, baby's latch, or something else, so dealing with it as quickly and easily as possible will help you prevent the problem from happening in the future.
1. Try Hand Expression
According to La Leche League International (LLLI,) manual expression, or hand expression, can be an extremely useful way to remove milk from your breasts and relieve the pain. It can be more effective than using a breast pump for some women and can be performed using only your hands.
2. Nurse More Frequently
If over supply or infrequent nursing (such as from starting a new job away from baby,) is causing your engorgement, the Pump Station recommended simply increasing the frequency that you nurse or pump. After a few days your body should adjust to the new sessions and balance out your supply.
3. Alternate Heat And Ice
Medela recommended using warm compresses or taking a warm shower before nursing to help relieve pain and soften your breast tissue, and then alternating with an ice pack to help reduce swelling. Too much heat, however can make inflammation worse, so use heat only as needed.
4. Try Reverse Pressure Softening
Another LLLI article suggested using a technique called Reverse Pressure Softening (RPS) to relieve engorgement. The thought is that the method will briefly move the swelling backwards into your breasts to help baby latch on more easily and thereby remove the milk that is causing the engorgement.
5. Resort To The Classics
To strictly deal with the pain and not solve the root of the problem, it's fine to take Ibuprophen, Advil, or Motrin to help manage the pain, and reduce swelling, the aforementioned Pump Station article noted.
6. Try Cabbage Leaves
It sounds odd, but many moms swear that using cabbage leaves to relieve many. According to LLLI, placing raw, green, chilled cabbage leaves on your breasts in between feedings, changing them every two hours can be helpful.