If you are a breastfeeding mom, you know all too well that the struggle to feed your baby can be very real. There are times when you worry about supply, cluster feedings, and even breast pain due to engorgement. When you are engorged, feeding can feel painful, but you may wonder, is breast milk from an engorged breast bad for your baby?
It’s important to first know what engorgement is and how it happens. According to La Leche League International (LLLI), for some women, engorgement occurs between the second and sixth day after their baby is born, when their milk begins increasing in quantity. Your breasts feel heavier and fuller, the website explained, due to the increased blood flow and milk supply. This feeling of fullness usually lasts no longer than 48 hours, but sometimes, noted LLLI, if it does last longer, your breasts can feel hard and painful, in which case frequent nursing will help.
So is milk from an engorged breast any different than regular breast milk? Romper spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and registered nurse, Mary Kay Smith, who says that milk from an engorged breast is still breast milk. “Assuming it's from initial physiologic engorgement, there’s no difference in nutritional value," she says. So it's not bad for your baby at all.
Breastfeeding is actually crucial if your breasts are engorged. According to Baby Center, you should nurse frequently to relieve engorgement, otherwise it could lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection. If you are engorged, the article suggested massaging your breasts gently while nursing, and using either warm compresses to ease milk flow, or ice packs to relieve swelling just before you nurse. Engorgement can make it harder for your baby to latch on though, in which case hand expressing before breastfeeding can help.
If you are worried about engorgement, talking to a lactation consultant may help. Just remember to keep nursing or pumping when your baby is hungry, and you’ll get over this hurdle in no time.