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Help! my breasts are like huge beach balls - will they stay like this if I go on breastfeeding?

Between three and six days after birth, your breasts prepare to increase milk production. Your breasts can feel very swollen, tender, throbbing, lumpy, and uncomfortably full. This is due to the blood and lymphatic flow to the breasts increasing, in conjunction with a larger volume of milk being produced. This is normal, but if the milk isn't effectively removed at each feed, the breasts quickly become congested and swollen, or 'engorged'.

Not every new mother experiences true engorgement. Some women's breasts become only slightly full, but others find their breasts have grown astonishingly big and hard. However engorgement should be a temporary condition, as long as your baby is latching on well and feeding on demand, for as long as he needs to.

An engorged breast is like an overfull balloon, the nipple can become flattened. This makes it difficult for the baby to latch on and get enough breast tissue to remove the milk effectively. While the baby is feeding, some mothers find it helpful to gently massage the breast he is on. This encourages milk to flow and will help relieve some of the tightness and discomfort.

Wear a supportive feeding bra, even during the night. Some women find that applying fresh green cabbage leaves to their breasts can help – although there is no research to support it. The cabbage leaves may have a cooling effect but they won't remedy the real cause of engorgement which is that milk is not being removed from the breasts efficiently. You can take simple analgesia such as Paracetamol.

Various agencies can offer extra support; the National Childbirth Trust breastfeeding helpline (0870 444 8708), the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (020 7813 1481), the Breastfeeding Network (0870 900 8787) or the La Leche League (020 7242 1278). Your Midwife and Health visitor will be helpful too.



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