When I was breastfeeding and dealing with engorgement, my breasts would go from soft to rock hard and sore without any warning. I was desperate to try anything to relieve the pressure and pain, and even considered throwing in the towel on nursing altogether. That is, until I learned how to massage my boobs to relieve engorgement.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Angie Natero tells Romper, the best way to prevent or get through engorgement is to breastfeed on demand. Unfortunately, it isn't always an option. For me, my engorgement struggles happened when I couldn't nurse, like when I was at work or out running errands. In those instances, it's important to be armed with a pain-relief tactic, like breast massage.
IBCLC and registered nurse Lori Atkins of Oh, Baby Lactation Care tells Romper that breast massage is extremely effective in relieving engorgement. She explains it's best to lay down with one hand under your head to open up the armpit. Then, use olive or coconut oil to "massage the breast away from the nipple, towards the armpit." Atkins says this method is so effective because "lymph nodes act like large drains and move the swollen lymph fluid away," and milk and fluids from pregnancy that congregate in the breasts are waiting to get to the kidneys to be flushed away. As a result, using the massage technique helps the fluid go and the milk flow.
Additionally, both Natero and Atkins say hand expression is another massage-like technique to relieve engorgement. Along with upping milk supply, hand expression is an extremely underutilized practice you can incorporate before breastfeeding and to assist with engorged breasts. It's even helpful when breasts feel full or if you need to relieve a plugged milk duct, according to CloudMom. If you find yourself wondering if you're doing it right or how exactly you can massage your breasts to stimulate milk release, this CloudMom video created by Maya Bolman and Dr. Ann Witt of Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio can walk you through massage and hand expression step by step.
Overall, massage and hand expression are extremely helpful tactics for moms dealing with engorgement. Utilizing one or both of these techniques isn't too difficult, especially with video tutorials if you're unsure, a lactation consultant for assistance, or just allowing yourself the time to learn. Additionally, massage and hand expression can be done anywhere, so it's the perfect engorgement go-to when you're not able to breastfeed on demand or don't have another resource to fall back on.