Kidalog/Baby Love Products, Camrose, Alberta, Canada

In the first days after giving birth, your breasts may become swollen and hard, which is uncomfortable, and baby may have difficulty latching on. My doctor, who was also trained as a midwife in Africa and Europe, recommended a time-tested technique: before nursing, stand over a sink, apply warm washcloths to the breasts, and gently massage them, so the milk will let down easily. Massage from the chest outwards towards the nipple. Warm towels also work. If you have time, a warm shower or bath also helps milk let down.

Also, allowing baby to nurse as often and long as he/she wants will prevent engorgement in the first place. It is normal for some babies to want to nurse HOURS at a time until your milk comes in! Other babies may nurse for short periods every hour. Nurse "on demand" from your baby. Not nursing often enough is the commonest cause of engorgement. It is important to nurse the baby even if your milk hasn't "come in" yet. He will be receiving colostrum which contains important immunilogical factors, and this early nursing will prevent engorgement later.

Avoid giving baby supplements of formula or water.

If baby has trouble latching on because your nipples are swollen with engorgement, you can express a little milk before you put baby to the breast. (Hand expression will do; despite ads and salespeople who tell you otherwise, a breast pump is NOT needed for engorgement!) Or, wear breast shields between nursings. Nipple shields are now recommended by La Leche League in certain situations, but can cause nipple confusion if used incorrectly. Be sure to ask your lactation consultant or La Leche League Leader before using nipple shields.

To relieve pain, you can use ice packs between feedings.

Cabbage leaves are a home remedy that works! Cut the hard vein out of a large chilled cabbage leaf, and make a hole for your nipple. Wear under your bra for a few hours, then put in a new leaf.

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If you wear a bra, be sure that it is not too tight. If it is an underwire bra, be sure that it is properly fitted so that the wires are not pressing on your milk ducts, or you may get mastitis.