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Breast Care for the Non-breast Feeding Woman


During pregnancy, a woman's breasts prepare for lactation. Milk usually comes in 3 to 4 days after delivery, but this may happen later for some women. Breast milk production will begin if you had a baby vaginally or if you had a cesarean section (C-section).


Follow up with your primary healthcare provider (PHP) as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Breast changes you may have if you do not breastfeed:

Your production of breast milk will stop by itself over time. Before this happens, you may have any of the following:

  • Milk leakage may occur. Drops of milk may leak from your breasts for weeks after delivery.
  • Breast engorgement may also occur. Your breasts may feel hard to the touch. You may see swelling and feel pressure, discomfort, or pain for up to 10 days after delivery. Breast swelling can cause you to get a fever and have muscle aches. Although engorgement can be uncomfortable, it helps your body decrease breast milk production.

Breast care:

Your PHP may suggest any of the following:

  • Wear a bra that fits correctly and provides firm support. A well-fitting bra that is not too tight may decrease breast pain and the amount of milk leakage from your breasts. A supportive bra can also decrease the symptoms of engorgement. You may also be told not to stimulate your nipples.
  • Place ice packs on your breasts. This may decrease breast swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a bag and cover it with a towel. Ask how often and how long you should use ice.
  • Ask about medicines to decrease your breast pain or discomfort. Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help decrease pain and swelling. They can be bought with or without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take this medicine. Follow directions. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

Contact your PHP if:

  • You have very painful breasts.
  • You have a fever and muscle aches that last longer than 1 day.
  • You feel or see a lump in your breast.
  • You have breast swelling that gets worse, even with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.