Several days after birth, the milk supply increases and some breast fullness is normal during this time.  Engorgement occurs when the breasts are not drained often enough and extra blood, lymph and other fluids build up in the breasts.


How to Prevent-

      * Nurse early and often- 8-10 times a day no longer than 3

            hour stretches during the day 4 hour stretches at night

      * Don't skip feeding

      * Allow the baby to finish the first breast before offering the

            other side



  • Not feeding often enough
  • Limiting length or frequency of feedings
  • Supplemental bottles or pacifiers
  • Poor latching techniques



  • Apply warm compresses (hot water in a diaper) to the breast and hand express or pump to soften the breast enough for the baby to latch on
  • Breastfeed frequently at least every 1.2-2 hours during the day and no longer than 3 hours at night
  • If your breasts are still full after feedings, you can pump long enough to soften them to comfort (pumping will not make engorgement worse).
  • Ice packs for 10-15 minutes after feedings may reduce swelling and/or you can try cabbage leaves
  • To use cabbage, put a chilled cabbage leaf in your bra for 1-2 hours, or until they become limp and wilted.  Remove them and attempt to breastfeed or pump.  Repeat until swelling has resolved and milk is flowing freely.  Cabbage will not “dry your milk up” if you are frequently removing milk from your breasts.


When to call your Doctor or Lactation Consultant-

  • Above treatments do not work or you cannot express any milk
  • Engorgement persists for longer than 24 hours
  • You have a fever, chilling, or flu-like symptoms
  • The baby will not latch on



Lawrence, Ruth. “Breastfeeding- A Guide for the Medical Profession” 6th edition. Pgs. 278-281

Wilson-Clay, Barbara, Hoover, Kay.  “The Breastfeeding Atlas” 3rd edition. Pgs. 109-111


Copyright: Chasta Hite, RN, IBCLC, RLC, Gloria Dudney, RN, IBCLC, RLC, Ann Perry, RN, IBCLC, RLC

Updated June 11, 2010