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How to Relieve Engorged Breasts when Stopping Breastfeeding.
Your milk supply will eventually taper off on its own after you stop breastfeeding.
However, you may find your breasts becoming painfully overfull at first.
Pain and engorgement tend to be at their worst during the first 1 to 5 days after nursing ends, though you can lessen your pain by weaning slowly or using a pump.
Fortunately, you can ease a lot of this discomfort with home treatments, such as using cold compresses and expressing small amounts of milk when you need to.
If you’re dealing with severe pain or symptoms of mastitis, make an appointment with your doctor.
Managing Breast Engorgement with Home Treatments
Use cold compresses to minimize pain and swelling.
When your breasts are feeling engorged and sore, slip cold gel packs or compresses into your bra.
You could also hold the pack to the affected breast with your hand.
Keep the pack(s) in place for a while until you feel some relief.
Another option is to apply a compress in the form of a washcloth soaked in cold water after a bath or shower.
Look online or in your local pharmacy for cold packs that are specially designed to relieve breast inflammation.
If you’re using an ice pack, put a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the pack.
Don’t leave a frozen cold pack on your breast for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Soothe breast pain with cold cabbage leaves
Take a pair of chilled cabbage leaves and cut out any large veins or ridges.
Slip the leaves into your bra while they are still cold and leave them there until they wilt, then change them out for a new pair.
Cabbage has long been thought to help reduce milk supply, but there’s not much clear evidence to support this idea.
Studies do show that cabbage leaves can be helpful for relieving engorgement symptoms, however.
Use a warm compress to relieve discomfort.
Soak a wash cloth in warm water, then lay it over your breasts.
Hold the cloth in place for about 15 minutes.
Re-apply your compress throughout the day, as needed.
You can also use a hot/cold pack as a compress, if you have one. Simply fill it with warm water and hold it on your breast.
Never use hot water, as you may accidentally burn your delicate breast tissue.
Express just enough milk to make your breasts more comfortable.
If your breasts feel overfull, hand express a small amount of milk until you get some relief from the pressure.
Don’t express too much or try to empty your breasts completely, or you will encourage them to keep producing more milk.
If your breasts are very engorged and painful and you can’t get relief, try pumping or fully expressing them just once.
Avoid doing this too often, so that you don’t stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
After emptying your breasts, express small amounts of milk occasionally in order to prevent them from becoming overly full again.
Massage your breast to help relieve the discomfort.
Apply a dot of massage oil onto your chest, then use your fingertips to slowly rub your breast.
Using light pressure, make circular movements around your breasts.
You can give yourself a massage without oil.
However, the oil makes it easier for your hands to slide across your skin.
Try over-the-counter pain relievers if your doctor recommends them.
Pain relief medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) may be helpful for reducing your pain and inflammation.
If you’re still in the process of weaning your baby, ask your doctor if it’s okay to take these medications while you breastfeed.
Acetaminophen can help relieve pain, but NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen have the added benefit of reducing inflammation.
Follow the dosage instructions on the label or those provided by your doctor.
Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra to keep your breasts comfortable.
Look for a bra that fits properly and provides support without being too tight.
This can help keep your breasts from feeling either uncomfortably heavy or too confined.
Avoid wearing underwire bras, since these can put too much pressure on your breasts and may increase your risk of developing blocked ducts or mastitis.
If underwire support is more comfortable for you, look for a bra designed specifically for nursing with flexible wire.
Treat your breasts gently while your milk supply decreases.
Breasts that are engorged may bruise easily or be sensitive to the touch.
Make sure to handle your breasts carefully and avoid jostling them or squeezing them too hard.
If you have a partner, ask them to be gentle with your breasts during intimate moments.
Getting Medical Treatments for Severe Engorgement
Visit your doctor if you have severe pain or mastitis symptoms.
Sometimes engorged breasts can develop clogs in the milk ducts that may lead to infection.
If you have severe breast pain or swelling and can’t get relief using home treatments, it’s possible you have a blockage.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice symptoms of an infection, such as:
Swelling and tenderness of your breast
Redness of the skin on your breast, which may spread out in a wedge-shaped pattern
Skin that is warm to the touch
Fever or chills
Pain or burning when you breastfeed or express milk
Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling achy,
fatigued, or generally ill
Take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them.
If your doctor determines that you have a breast infection, they will likely prescribe an antibiotic.
Make sure to complete the full course of the antibiotic unless your doctor tells you to do otherwise.
Your doctor may also recommend that you take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain and inflammation.
Carefully follow any other home care instructions from your doctor, such as using cold packs to reduce inflammation or pumping to relieve pressure until the infection clears up.
Ask your doctor about medications to suppress lactation.
In rare cases, your doctor may prescribe a drug to stop your milk production.
These medications have a lot of potentially harmful side effects, so they are rarely used except in cases where it is urgent to reduce the milk supply quickly (e.g., if you have become ill and have to stop nursing abruptly).
The only medication that is still regularly used for this purpose is cabergoline.
This medication is most effective when it is used in the first few days after childbirth.