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Breastfeeding And Breast Engorgement


Breast engorgement develops when too much milk builds up in your breast. It is normal for your breasts to feel swollen, heavy, and tender when your milk comes in. This is called breast fullness. When your breast starts to feel painful and hard, the fullness has developed into engorgement. Breast engorgement usually happens 3 to 5 days after you give birth. Engorgement can happen if you are not breastfeeding or expressing milk often, or produce a lot of milk. Your baby may have a hard time latching on (attaching) to your breast to feed. Without treatment, engorgement can lead to plugged milk ducts or a breast infection called mastitis.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a fever with chills or body aches.
  • You have pain and swelling in one or both breasts that keeps you from breastfeeding.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a tender breast lump that grows slowly and usually forms on one side of your breast.
  • You have a small, white bump on your nipple.
  • Your symptoms do not get better within 24 hours.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Breastfeed or pump every 2 or 3 hours. Frequent breastfeeding helps decrease engorgement discomfort. Express or pump milk from your breasts before you breastfeed. This will help soften your breast and your nipple, and allow your baby to latch on better.
  • Empty your breasts completely. Take your time when you breastfeed to allow your baby to empty your breast. Try not to switch breasts too early. Express or pump after you breastfeed if your baby is not emptying your breasts when he feeds.
  • Massage your breast. Breast massage helps empty your engorged breast and decrease pain. Gently massage your breast before and during breastfeeding to help increase your milk flow. Gently stroke your breast, starting from the outer areas and working your way toward the nipple. Breast massage may also help prevent breast engorgement if done in the first few days after you give birth.
  • Apply a cool compress in between feedings. The cold may help decrease swelling and pain in your engorged breast. Wet a washcloth in cold water, wring it out, and place it on your breast. Ask how long and how often to use a cool compress.
  • Wear a supportive bra. The bra should fit well but not be too tight.
  • Apply warmth to your breast before you breastfeed. Put a warm, wet cloth on your breast or take a warm shower. This can help increase your milk flow.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

For more information:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • La Leche League International
    957 North Plum Grove Road
    Schaumburg , IL 60173
    Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
    Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
    Web Address:

Further information

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

Learn more about Breastfeeding And Breast Engorgement (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes