In this post, a few months ago, we were already talking about the milk let-down: the physiological process that takes place 24-48 hours after birth. But this process can get complicated and become a painful problem. Today we have to talk about ingurgitation and how to solve it.


But let’s go step by step: What’s an engorgement or ingurgitation?

An ingurgitation is an accumulation of liquids: liquids, blood, plasma… in the breast in the immediate postpartum period, which edematizes it and prevents the exit of milk through the nipple. This causes pain, inflammation and makes it impossible for the baby to breastfeed.

Why does ingurgitation happen?

Ingurgitations are more frequent in mothers who have had long births in which they have been put many intravenous fluids. Also mothers who have had a complicated onset of breastfeeding or who have been separated from their babies for many hours may suffer from this annoying complication.

It should be noted that the ingurgitation is pathological and is very different from the feeling of fullness that mothers have during the milk let-down. This feeling of fullness is absolutely normal when breastfeeding begins, but in no case is it painful or prevents the baby from breastfeeding.

My baby can’t latch on to the breast or seems to reject it. Why?

When the breast is so hard, it is impossible for the baby to place the tongue and express milk, it is like wanting to suck from a wall. Sometimes they come to make the latch but do not suck because they can not milk with the tongue, spend a while clinging to the breast and when they let go the breast is just as hard.

Other babies get angry and cry when they can’t breastfeed, and mothers interpret this as rejection of the baby.

What is NOT to do if we have an ingurgitation?

Sometimes unintentionally, we can do things that make an ingurgitation worse and make it harder to solve the problem. The most outstanding are:

  • Apply heat: as we said before, an ingurgitation is an inflammation and it is not advisable to apply heat because we can make it worse.
  • Mother-baby separation: before we said that this separation is one of the possible causes of the problem, therefore, whenever possible, we will try that mother and baby are together, ideally skin with skin.
  • Postpone the feedings: it is possible that we feel discomfort in the breast and that, in addition, our hospital room (or our house) is really crowded. Even so, it is not advisable to space the shots, on the contrary, the ideal is to offer the breast very often, even before each hour.
  • Using pacifiers or teats: related to the previous point, it is known that the use of pacifiers or teats could interfere with a good latch on of the baby to the breast. So the first postpartum days (or weeks) are best not offered to the baby.

How can I solve a breast engorgement?

Solving the ingurgitation allows the mother to alleviate the pain and helps the baby to eat. First of all, we need to unblock the milk flow. To do this, we must avoid applying heat to the breast and opt for cold: cabbage leaves, clay, thermal packs or simply frozen food (wrapped in a towel).

Then, to drain the milk, it is necessary to apply the so-called Reverse pressure softening (RPS) massages that allow the areola and nipple to soften and so the baby can latch on.

Once the baby has suckled it is necessary to reapply cold. If your gynaecologist has prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs after delivery, you can continue to take them until your breasts get better. The anti-inflammatories that are given in the postpartum period are not a risk for the breastfeeding baby, you can check their compatibility at promoted by the paediatricians of the association APILAM.

How long can an engorgement last?

Following all the above recommendations, it is solved in 24 to 48 hours. The breast will improve when you follow all the above measures and will oscillate until it disappears completely.


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