Feeling hot and heavy? Tips for preventing and treating engorgement

If you’ve been pregnant, odds are you’ve experienced engorgement. Breast engorgement is caused by an increase in blood flow and milk supply. Engorgement can happen regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding.

Around 3-5 days post labor, your body automatically begins producing milk. Initially, milk is made constantly. It is only later that your body adjusts to produce based on demand.

During engorgement your breasts can feel swollen, warm, and tender and pain can be mild or intense. Engorgement can make nursing challenging as the breast can be so filled with milk that the infant has difficulty latching.


Symptoms of Engorgement:

You (your breasts) may experience some or all of the following:

  • Warm or hot to the touch
  • Tender, uncomfortable or painful
  • Swollen or hard (they may be so swollen that it is hard for your baby to latch)
  • Lumpy or heavy
  • Visible veins

*Symptoms can extend all the way through the armpit where you also have mammary tissue.

Tips to Help Alleviate Engorgement:

1. Hand express or pump prior to nursing.

If you are planning on nursing, breastfeeding is the best way to remove milk and relieve engorgement, however often babies have trouble nursing when engorgement is present. Hand expressing or briefly pumping prior to nursing can help release some swelling and allow your baby to latch.

2. Take a warm shower and/or apply a warm compress before breastfeeding.

Applying warmth to tender tissue can relieve pain and also help milk flow. You can also hand express in the shower to help reduce discomfort.

Product we suggest: Comfy Cozie Warm compress made with natural ingredients and a washable cover.

Pro tip: If you are out and about, fill a diaper with warm water and apply as you would any warm compress.

3. Gently massage breast tissue.

Gentle massage can help get milk flowing. You can also massage the breast while the baby is latched to help remove some milk from your swollen breasts. If your baby struggles with the amount of milk flow, you can briefly remove your baby and catch your letdown in a container or even a towel before re-latching.

4. Ensure that milk removal is effective.

In addition to helping your baby gain weight, a proper latch will protect your nipples and help prevent engorgement. Remember that you can always get help from a lactation consultant. Programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) often have IBCLCs on staff.

5. Remove milk regularly.

If you are planning on nursing, feed on demand and regularly (every 2-3 hours). Eventually your body will only produce as much milk as your baby is drinking. Until then, frequent feelings help prevent milk backup.

As much as possible, try to avoid extra pumping (i.e., pumping in addition to regular nursing or pumping more milk than your baby currently needs). Pumping can cause your body to produce more milk and prolong engorgement.

6. Apply ice after feeding.

Applying ice at 10-15 minute increments after nursing can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Product we suggest: COOLING Breast Soothers We're giving away a free mini version with any $50 order --while supplies last!

Pro tip: You can use frozen peas in a pinch.

7. Wear clothes and bras that are meant to grow with your changing body.

Tight fitting bras and clothes can make engorgement worse. Choose loose fitting clothing and/or clothing that is intentionally designed to adapt to your fluctuating chest size.

Products we suggest: Bralettes & Hug Tank

Pro tip: Try the two shirt method for easy nursing anywhere, anytime.


This post is not meant to serve as medical advice. Please reach out to your doctor if you experience a fever, have aches, chills, or breast redness, or you experience symptoms that won’t subside.

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