When your baby is born, your breasts make a uniquely rich type of milk called colostrum. Two to three days later, your milk will come in and you will feel your breasts become full. Sometimes, when your milk arrives, the extra blood flow to your breasts makes them feel hard, hot, swollen and tender; this is called engorgement.
Using warm packs to heat your breasts for 10 to 15 minutes before nursing can relieve engorgement. Nurse every 1 to 2 hours and place cold packs – frozen bags of peas works well – on your breasts for 10 to 15 minutes after nursing. Ask your doctor or midwife if they recommend that you take ibuprofen (600-800 milligrams), up to three times a day. To provide both comical and physical relief, place uncooked green cabbage leaves on your breasts to decrease engorgement. It works!
Sore and cracked nipples
If you feel pain in your nipples from nursing, take immediate steps to heal them. Check to make sure that your baby is latching correctly during every feeding. Avoid pulling her off quickly. Instead, break the seal between her mouth and your skin by slipping your finger in at the side of her lips.
Try different nursing positions to vary the pressure points on your nipples. Rub breastmilk on your nipples and let them air dry. Gel packs (a.k.a. “Soothies”) will help heal and reduce pain between nursing. If breastfeeding becomes too painful, call our lactation specialists.
Blocked ducts and mastitis
If milk ducts become blocked, milk will get trapped in one part of your breast, causing pain. To treat blocked ducts, massage your breast from the perimeter toward the nipple, shower or use warm packs before feeding, nurse more often on the side with the plugged duct, and mix positions while nursing to try to empty the plugged spot.
If this painful area becomes red, or is accompanied by a fever of 100.4 or higher, or flu-like symptoms occur, your duct may be infected (called mastitis). Call your obstetrician or midwife right away.