Can I Do Anything About Engorgement?

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
I've breastfed successfully and love it, but I still find myself asking is there a way to make those first few days a bit easier with the engorgement?

Getting past the first 2-3 days when my milk comes in is tough and the part I dread the most.

ANSWER

The best way to prevent engorgement is to encourage the baby to nurse long and often in the early days. Many times babies want to nurse almost continuously until the milk "comes in." If they're allowed to do that, many mothers never become engorged.

However, if you do become engorged, cool compresses between feedings helps bring down swelling and *frequent* feedings help keep the breasts drained and relieve engorgement faster.Hand expressing can help. If you have a good quality breast pump, you can also use that to drain the breasts more fully. Many mothers are mistakenly told not to express for fear they will make the engorgement worse. Actually the opposite is true.

-- Nancy, IBCLC

Kathleen Tackett

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.