Many breastfeeding mums are familiar with engorgement. This is when breasts become full, firm, tender and sometimes downright painful.
You wake up in the middle of the night, not because of a crying baby, but because it feels as though someone has replaced your breasts with two large boulders on the verge of exploding. While the glamour model-size chest might look great, it's a condition that's impossible to ignore and it can lead to infection and clogged nipples.
Engorgement typically happens when a new mum's milk first comes in, about 3 to 5 days after birth. If a mother chooses not to breastfeed and must wait for the milk to dry up, or during breastfeeding when feedings are missed. This is a common issue for many working mothers who can't breastfeed with the same regularity as they would at home.
So what can you do about Engorgement?
Massage your mammaries! It is important to regularly massage your breasts Ã¢Â€Â“ before, during and after feeds. This helps the milk to flow downwards and prevents ducts from getting blocked. Start from the outside of the breast and move inwards towards the areola and nipple, using small soft circles. Massage under your arm and around the collarbone area too if this feels hard.
For working mums, this can be tricky as fondling your breasts at your desk probably isn't acceptable office protocol. However, be sure to do it in the shower in the morning before you head off to work, during washroom breaks and again in the evening Ã¢Â€Â“ and during any feeds with your baby. Massaging will stimulate milk flow so use a hand pump to express the excess milk. Expressing directly into sterile bottles or bags means you can save the milk for your baby. Just store them in a mini cool bag in the office fridge. No one will know it's not your lunch!
Many people find applying gentle heat to the breasts while massaging helps too, like in a shower or using a warm flannel. Alternatively, you can try applying ice packs for about ten minutes before massaging your breasts to help reduce swelling. Pop a few small ice packs into your mini cool bag for the office for effective relief.
For any plugged ducts (you'll feel them as hard little knots in your breast), apply local heat to the area and massage the area to work the knot out. While feeding your baby, point their nose towards the plugged duct if possible.
Other useful tips
Ensure that your bra offers support but isn't overly tight as this can cause infection. If possible don't use a nipple shield inside your bra as this can cause milk ducts getting plugged. Working mums might find it necessary to use a shield or breast pad to prevent embarrassing leakages in the office, but try to avoid wearing them when at home. Hand express or pump some milk from engorged breasts first before trying to latch your baby on to relieve some of the pressure. Babies can find it difficult to latch onto an engorged breast.
Massage your baby too!
Massaging your baby can also aid steady milk flow. As well as the physiological benefits for a baby, there are also many benefits for the mother. Baby Massage helps stimulate the hormone prolactin in mothers, which helps encourage lactation.
The close one-to-one skin contact that's created during baby massage also generates oxytocin - the hormone that reduces stress Ã¢Â€Â“ in both the baby and the mum. Mothers, who regularly massage their infants, will often find that they also feel more relaxed and calm and able to cope with the stresses of looking after a baby. It is now also widely recognised that baby massage can be highly effective for beating post-partum blues and helping mothers with postnatal depression.
Try this massage with your baby
Easy to slot in after a busy day, this short massage will help soothe your baby and relax you too! To begin, make sure baby is content, the room is warm and dimly lit. Then apply a little Hugs Oil to the palms of your hand. Begin with the baby's legs. Supporting one ankle with one hand, use the other palm to firmly stroke the outside of the leg from the ankle to the top of the thigh. Then glide down the back of the leg. Change hands and repeat on the inside of the leg. Massage the leg several times then change legs.
Move to the chest area. Start with both your hands in the centre of the chest and make a lovely heart shape, sweeping down to the baby's abdomen. Repeat several times. Finish with a short tummy massage. Using your hand make a gentle circular movement in a CLOCKWISE direction around the belly button.
At the end slowly sweep your hands down the baby's body, from the chest down to the toes. Repeat several times. Take your time with the massage, enjoy it and see how relaxed you and baby will be!
For more advice, tips and articles on mother and baby well-being visit: www.mambabybliss.com . To treat your nipples, try the MamaBabyBliss Soothing Balm. Both dermatologically and paediatrician approved, this balm helps relieve chapped nipples.