Two to three days after the birth of your baby your body begins producing copious amounts of milk. In Lactation Consultant terms it’s called Lactogenesis II, but we all know it as when our milk “comes in”.
At this point women should be experiencing breast fullness. This means that your breasts are larger than they were before, warmer and will range from feeling a bit uncomfortable to some mild soreness. The milk that you are producing is flowing freely from your breasts when babe is latched. For some women the milk will leak when babe is not attached as well. Lactation consultants see this as a very positive sign!
What is NOT normal for the breast when our milk comes in is for engorgement to occur. Engorged breasts are defined as “looking tight and shiny and feel painful, milk flow may be compromised.” (Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition). The skin will be tight and the breasts may be very hard.
There are many reasons for engorgement to occur, and I will write more on that at a future date, here I want to discuss what a lactation consultant will do when they come to your home:
We will assess your baby’s latch and get babe to help drain the breast more fully. We may do breast massage, hand expression and some pumping to get the milk flowing. If the engorgement is compromising milk flow we will use reverse pressure softening and cold compresses to get the extra fluid out of the breasts. Ongoing cold cabbage leaf use in between feedings will also help keep the swelling down.
I took this picture at one of my client’s house. I love it because we use whatever we have in reach to help reduce the swelling from engorgement. I found frozen strawberries and corn! Frozen fruits and veggies are great because we can mould them to the shape of the breast.
Again, engorgement of the breast is not a normal state and if left unchecked can quickly become an emergency situation requiring hospital interventions.
If you feel as though your breasts are engorged, you should call your lactation consultant for an assessment.