Feeling Full? Let’s Talk about Engorgement…

Since we just talked about colostrum, we thought it was a good time to bring up engorgement. Although engorgement does not happen to everyone, when it does it can feel painfully full, tight and uncomfortable. On day 3 to day 6 your milk ‘comes-in’. I never liked this phrase, because it makes moms think that there is no milk before this process, which just isn’t the case. Anyway, when your milk comes-in you may experience engorgement, which is not just the milk in the breasts feeling full, it is also a reaction your body has to this process which causes some inflammation or swelling. If you experience engorgement the first thing to do is often the answer to most questions or concerns… feed your baby. If your baby is not ready to feed, hand express some of your milk out or use your pump or hand pump until your breasts feel softer, usually about 10-15 minutes. Relieving this pressure will not make engorgement worse. If you still feel full after your baby has fed (if you are engorged you will likely still feel full after your baby feeds!), you can put a little bit of cold on your breasts to help decrease the swelling.

Now, with engorged breasts your baby can have difficulty latching if your breasts are full and tight. Before feeding your baby you can apply warm, moist heat to your breasts. This can be done in the shower or by applying warm compresses with warm washcloths or filling a disposable diaper with warm water. Next hand express a few drops of your milk to soften the breast tissue near your nipple. This will help your baby latch on deeply.


Lowdermilk, D, Perry, S., Casion, K., & Rhodes, K. (2012). Maternity and Women’s Health Care. (10thed.). St: Louis, MO: Elsevier Inc.

Lawrence R: Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession 6th ed. Elsevier Mosby:Philadelphia,PA. 2005.
Please be aware that this information provided is intended solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice. Always see the advice of your physician or medical provider for any questions you may have regarding your or your baby’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have received from this website or blog.

2 thoughts on “Feeling Full? Let’s Talk about Engorgement…

    1. The best way to prevent mastitis (infection) is a gradual decrease in breastfeeding. It is also important to wear a supportive comfortable bra and avoid nipple stimulation. Cabbage leaves help ease pain associated with engorgement as do cold/cool compress. Your breasts will continue to leak milk for some time so nursing pads are helpful for this.


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