One of the most common problems that women experience when they stop breastfeeding is breast engorgement. This condition is caused by the sudden accumulation of milk in the breasts, and it can be very painful.
In most cases, breast engorgement can be relieved by removing just enough breast milk to alleviate discomfort. You can also use a warm or cold compress, massage with cabbage cream and drink sage tea.
Let’s take a deep dive:
- Remove some breast milk
- Massage your breasts
- Apply a cold compress
- Use a warm compress
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take a hot shower or bath
- Wear a soft, stretchy bra
- Take ibuprofen
- Use sage to dry up milk
How to relieve breast engorgement when weaning
Every woman’s body is different, so what works for one may not work for another when it comes to relieving breast engorgement. However, here are some tips that have been shown to help many women:
Remove some breast milk
If you are experiencing breast engorgement, the best way to relieve the discomfort is to remove some breast milk. This can be done by expressing or pumping the milk from your breasts.
You can use a manual or electric pump, or express the milk by hand. If you are using a manual pump, make sure to massage your breasts while you pump. If you are using an electric pump, set the pump to a low setting and let it run for about 10 minutes.
If he’s interested, your husband may be able to help by sucking on your nipples. Some husbands like to breastfeed and it can be done during pregnancy and throughout your breastfeeding journey. Just make sure he doesn’t drink too much.
Only remove as much milk that is needed to relieve your discomfort. If you empty your breasts, this tells your body that you need more milk and it will produce more breastmilk as a result.
Massage your breasts
Massaging your breasts can help to relieve the pressure and discomfort caused by breast engorgement, and it can also help to increase milk flow through clogged ducts.
Make sure your hands are clean and warm. Use a light touch and gentle circular motions. Focus on areas that have small lumps. These are clogged ducts. Massaging these areas will release the block and allow your milk to flow through again.
As yucky as it sounds, this cabbage breast massage cream cools engorgement and also helps dry up breast milk:
Apply a cold compress
A cold compress can help to reduce inflammation and swelling of engorged breasts. It can also help to ease pain and discomfort. The best way to do this is to use a cold pack or ice cube wrapped in a cloth. Place the compress on your breasts for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day. Make sure to keep the compress covered with a shirt or bra to prevent the cold from causing skin irritation.
Use a warm compress
Surprisingly, you can also use a hot compress to relieve the pressure and discomfort or engorged breasts. A bonus benefit of hot compresses is that they can also help to increase the flow of milk and unblock clogged ducts. Here is how to use a hot compress to relieve engorged breasts:
1. Fill a small bowl with hot water and soak a washcloth in the water.
2. Wring out the washcloth so that it is damp, but not wet.
3. Lightly apply the washcloth to your breasts.
4. After a few minutes, remove the washcloth.
5. Immediately after removal, lightly massage your breasts with your fingers.
These affordable therapy packs can be used hot or cold to relieve engorgement and improve milk flow:
Drink plenty of fluids
It’s no secret that breastfeeding mothers need to drink plenty of fluids. But did you know that drinking fluids can also help relieve breast engorgement? When the milk ducts become blocked, breast milk can back up and cause the breasts to become swollen and painful.
Drinking lots of fluids can help keep the milk ducts open and help to relieve the pain and swelling associated with breast engorgement.
Take a hot shower or bath
When your breasts become engorged with milk, the shower is often the best place to seek relief. The combination of heat and water can help to soften the breast tissue and encourage milk flow.
The pressure of the showerhead can provide some relief from the discomfort caused by engorgement. It’s also a relaxing way to relieve stress and promote healing.
Wear a soft, stretchy bra
A soft and stretchy bra can help to relieve the discomfort of breast engorgement. Wearing a bra that fits well and provides support can help to prevent your heavier breasts from pulling. A well-fitting bra doesn’t press on breast tissue and reduce the risk of clogged ducts and mastitis.
This Kindred Bravely French Terry bra is amazingly soft and stretchy, perfect for tender breasts:
Further reading: Should you wear a bra when you have mastitis?
Ibuprofen is a medication that is typically used to relieve pain. It is also effective in reducing inflammation. Rest assured, if you are still weaning from breastfeeding, ibuprofen is safe to take while nursing.
This is because ibuprofen breaks down quickly and doesn’t build up in the system the way other drugs do. Only a miniscule amount of ibuprofen is transferred to your baby through breastmilk.
Use sage to dry up milk
Sage has been used to dry up breast milk for centuries. The active ingredient in sage, thujone, inhibits the production of milk. Sage can be taken as a tea or in capsule form. It is important to consult with a health care professional before taking any herbs while breastfeeding.
What are the best ways to prevent breast engorgement when stopping breastfeeding?
When stopping breastfeeding, there are a few things you can do to help prevent breast engorgement. Most importantly, make sure to discontinue breastfeeding gradually so your body has time to adjust.
If you start experiencing any symptoms of mastitis – such as fever or hard red bumps – notify your doctor immediately. In most cases, mastitis can be treated with antibiotics, but it’s best to catch it early on.
How long does it take for engorgement to go away when you stop breastfeeding?
It’s important to know that intermittent breast swelling and pain can last for several days or weeks after you stop breastfeeding. The pain may be sharp or achy, and it may radiate to the armpit or down the arm. Swelling may be accompanied by redness, warmth, and milk leakage from the nipples.
To wrap up
There are many ways to relieve breast engorgement when stopping breastfeeding but the best thing you can do is to remove some breast milk. Try the different methods to see what works best for you. If you are still experiencing discomfort after trying these methods, be sure to consult your doctor.
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