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HealthInfo Canterbury

Breast fullness & breast engorgement

If you are worried about your breasts or breastfeeding, or if you need any help, contact your midwife or general practice team, a breastfeeding support service, lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counsellor, or a breastfeeding support group. For free 24-hour breastfeeding support and information, phone (03) 338-8447.

If you are a breastfeeding woman, it's normal for your breasts to feel full, especially in the early days, when your breast milk amount and your baby's demand is not yet synchronised. Nearly all women feel breast fullness when their milk comes in, around three to five days after the birth. This is normal and should ease quickly as long as your baby is breastfeeding well and having frequent feeds. Your baby, if feeding well, will naturally be able to adjust your supply to the amount of milk they need.

Engorgement occurs when your breasts are too full and the areola becomes so firm that your baby finds it hard to latch. Engorgement can be very distressing and painful.

If your baby is breastfeeding well and milk is being removed effectively, engorgement is less likely to occur.

How to avoid breast engorgement

Signs of breast engorgement – what to look for

Techniques to help manage breast fullness or breast engorgement

If you notice any of the above signs, try these techniques to ease the discomfort:

It is safe to use ibuprofen (for example, Nurofen) while you are breastfeeding, and this may help reduce the discomfort and pain.

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Review key: HIBRF-24381