You would think that your breasts becoming so full of breast milk that they are actually engorged would be a good thing, right? Wrong: it can be incredibly painful and difficult to cope with. But why does engorgement happen? Is your body just too eager to feed your baby or are your breasts unable to cope with the amount of milk your baby needs?
Engorgement happens, in short, because your body is amazing. After you've given birth to your child, your breasts begin to fill with milk and can lead to engorgement about two to five days after delivery according to KellyMom. La Leche League International noted that it's not just milk either. The additional blood and fluid flowing to your breasts in order to produce milk plus the volume of your breast milk can all lead to feeling engorged.
Basically? Your breasts are too full. What to Expect noted that engorgement is temporary and typically ends within a couple of days as you nurse your baby and your body determines a good milk supply. The important thing is to continue nursing, despite the engorgement, so that the milk flow can help get rid of the heaviness in your breasts.
If you're farther out from delivery and experiencing engorgement, you might have an oversupply issue. According to KellyMom, if your breasts aren't being emptied when you nurse, your body can overproduce milk and lead to engorgement. Skipping feedings, like when your child doesn't nurse or is at day care, can also lead to engorgement noted What to Expect. The less a child nurses, the more milk you have backed up into your breasts and you can become engorged.
Engorgement happens when there's a lot of milk in your breasts, whether it's from an oversupply, missing a pumping or feeding session, or because your milk has just come in. Once your supply is regulated, you shouldn't have any problems with it again, but La Leche League International noted that it's important to keep an eye on it so your engorgement doesn't turn into a breast infection or clogged ducts.