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HealthInfo Canterbury

Breast fullness & breast engorgement

Mother holding baby while breastfeedingWhen you're breastfeeding, it's normal for your breasts to feel full, especially in the early days, when your body still hasn't learned how much milk your baby needs.

Nearly all women's breasts feel full 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 often, your body will adjust your supply to the amount of milk your baby needs.

Engorgement happens when your breasts are too full and your areolas become so firm that your baby finds it hard to latch. Engorgement can be very distressing and painful.

If your baby is breastfeeding well and is effectively removing milk, your breasts are less likely to become engorged.

How to avoid breast engorgement

Signs of breast engorgement – what to look for

If your breasts are becoming engorged:

How to manage breast fullness or engorgement

If you notice any signs your breasts are becoming engorged, try these techniques to ease the discomfort:

If your baby struggles to latch because your breasts are too full and the areolas are too firm, try hand expressing a small amount of milk first. This should make the areola area soft enough for your baby to latch.

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

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed February 2018.


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Review key: HIBRF-24381