Post-Partum Changes: Breast Engorgement

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Are your breasts feeling full and heavy post-pregnancy? You might be experiencing breast engorgement.

 

WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES

 

You’ve made it through what at times felt like a long and exhausting pregnancy – congratulations! As a brand new mum, some things can seem strange, overwhelming, frustrating, or all three at the same time. It’s important to know that many of the things you’re experiencing in the first weeks after giving birth are perfectly normal, albeit sometimes uncomfortable. Know that you are not alone and that many mums go through something similar. Here are some tips on what to expect, and how to survive the first weeks of post-pregnancy.

 

Your Body

The first six weeks are known as your body’s recovery period from the physical stress of pregnancy and labour. While it’s natural to hope that all the crummy pregnancy-related physical discomforts will miraculously disappear now that baby no longer lives inside you, the reality is that it will take awhile for your body to go back to its pre-pregnancy state.

 

Breast Engorgement

Two to five days after delivery, mums generally experience a feeling of fullness, heaviness and tenderness in their breasts as their milk comes in. “But if the breasts begin to feel hard, swollen, lumpy or painful, mum’s breasts are likely engorged,” says Helen Espina Cruz, senior lactation consultant at Raffles Hospital. The swelling and pain may extend to your armpit and you may even run a low fever, all of which may make it even harder to breastfeed properly. In the event that you do have a fever, it’s important you see a doctor.

 

Cause

Engorgement comes about when you are unable to empty your breasts fully or if your milk ducts are obstructed. Most often, the problem is that baby isn’t latching properly.

 

What you can do

“Gently massage the breast and hand express the areola area to soften it a bit so that baby can have a better latch before breastfeeding,” says Cruz. Frequent breastfeeding can help relieve the engorgement and you can also relieve the swelling and discomfort by applying chilled cabbage leaves or a cooling pack while resting at least two times a day, she adds. “Avoid applying cabbage on the nipple and areola area. Once you feel better or once the breasts are no longer engorged, don’t apply this anymore as this will decrease the milk supply,” says Cruz.

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