What is breast swelling?
When you start breastfeeding, first you produce colostrum in a small amount, which gradually increases in the first few days. After about two to four days, production increases significantly. This phenomenon is called the “arrival” of milk.
One of the signs that milk is beginning to arrive is a change in the breast – it is filling and becoming harder. This is due not only to an increase in the amount of milk, but also to an increased flow of blood and additional lymphatic fluid to the tissues of the breast.
If the child eats well and often, then in most mothers this feeling of heaviness disappears over time without any complications. However, some women produce so much milk that their breasts become full and become painful and very hard. This condition is called breast swelling. And although usually everything goes away in a day or two, this period can be quite painful.
How does the swelling of the mammary glands manifest?
Swelling can affect one or both breasts. It can cause swelling, sometimes down to the armpits, and a sensation of pulsation. The chest becomes quite hot, sometimes lumps are felt in it. All this is due to the fact that a huge number of processes are happening inside. You may notice other symptoms, such as the skin of the breast shining and stretching, and the nipples becoming hard and flat. Breast swelling can even lead to an increase in temperature to 37.5–38.3 ° C (99–101 ° F).
In addition to painful sensations, swelling of the mammary glands is also dangerous because it can complicate breastfeeding, and this, in turn, will further worsen the situation. If it is difficult for the baby to grip the breast due to the fact that the nipples have become flat and the breast tissue is harder, inflammation of the nipples may begin. In addition, in case of poor grip, he will not be able to completely empty the chest. Thus, in the absence of proper treatment, swelling of the mammary glands can lead to blockage of the milk ducts, mastitis and a decrease in milk production.
What causes breast swelling?
Usually the swelling of the mammary glands occurs due to the fact that the child does not eat enough often (less than eight times a day). In principle, this can happen to any mother, but women who have undergone various breast operations, including its enlargement, are more prone to swelling of the mammary glands.2 Wearing a bra of the wrong size or too tight clothes can increase discomfort and lead to blockage of the milk ducts and even mastitis.
Breast swelling can occur both in nursing mothers and in mothers who do not or cannot breastfeed. The hormonal changes that occur after the birth of the baby and the release of the placenta and increase the production of milk do not depend on whether you are breast-feeding or not. Swelling can also occur if the number of feedings is drastically reduced, for example, if the baby is sick, sleeps longer, starts eating solid food, or goes to nursery.
How to treat breast swelling?
The best medicine for a swollen breast is a hungry baby! Try to empty your chest as much as possible and more often to facilitate the release of milk. To do this, feed the baby on demand, preferably from eight to twelve times a day.
Keep the skin-to-skin contact with the baby, as often as possible, press it to the chest during the day, and also at night when you are not sleeping. This will allow him to smell the attractive smell of your milk and have easy access to his chest, and you will be able to better track the signs that he is hungry and, therefore, feed more often. Give your baby plenty of food from one breast before offering a second.
It is not superfluous to consult a consultant or a specialist on breastfeeding to check the correct grip and position of the baby. It depends on how well he will eat and empty his chest. The following tips will also help you relieve symptoms of breast swelling.
Tips for relieving symptoms of breast swelling2
Breastfeed your baby at least eight times a day.
Make sure the baby grasps the chest well.
Try other postures for feeding.
Gently massage your breasts while breastfeeding so that milk stands out better.
Express a little milk by hand or with a breast pump before feeding to soften the nipple and make it easier for the baby to grip.
If, after breastfeeding, the breast remains as firm and full, express more until you feel relief.
If your baby cannot suckle, express milk for him. Expression must be continued until the breast is softer, and do this at least eight times a day.
Try using the areola softening technique. This helps remove excess fluid from the chest. A consultant or breastfeeding specialist will show you how to do this.