Engorgement - Painfully Full Breasts
The Parents Network >
Advice about Breastfeeding >
Engorgement - Painfully Full Breasts
I am currently exclusively breastfeeding my 3-month-old baby.
He has always been a good sleeper, and recently he has begun
sleeping all the way through the night. This can be anywhere
beginning 9:00-11:00pm to ending 4:00-7:00am. The problem is
that I wake up with deeply painful, engorged breasts and a bad
bachache each morning. We get back into a nice feeding rhythm
during the day, every 3 hrs or so, and the pain goes away by mid-
day. My baby seems happy & healthy, but this long stretch at
night just makes me feel terrible in the morning. I would hate
to wake him up to feed him, since it seems to be such a gift
that he has begun to sleep -- I am especially non-functional
with no sleep, and have trouble getting back to sleep once I
wake up. Also, I have another very active child to take care
of, too, so being alert is important. This did not happen with
my first child. Do I begin substituting a bottle at some point
during the day? Wake him up? Should I pump at some time during
the day or night? Has anyone been in this situation and found a
solution that worked for them?
Thanks for your advice!
Sorry about your pain but consider yourself really really lucky
to have such a good sleeper! Many babies can sleep through the
night once they reach 11 lbs but many do not. No need to wake
your baby.My advice to you is pump sometime before you go to
bed. Eventually your body will adjust to this new schedule and
eventually you won't have to pump during the night. Engorgement
can lead to clogged ducts which can lead to mastitis, a painful
infection of the ducts. Believe me, you don't want to go down
that path! Relax. Go pump. And soon you'll all be getting a good
Hi - your body and boobs should soon get used to your baby
sleeping longer at night. My son is now 5 months and I went
through similar painful nights as he was beginning to sleep
longer. It helped me to pump just a little (a couple of
ounces) to relieve the engorgement. I don't think you need to
substitute any breastfeeding to a bottle during the day - I
think in a few days your body will be making the right amount
of milk at the right times.
My son also started sleeping through the night early (at 2
months). Count yourself lucky! I also woke up for several
mornings with painfully engorged breasts. Wait a few days, and
your milk supply will adjust. It just takes a few days of him
not nursing at night. Don't pump at night... it will keep your
body from adjusting.
The thing with sleep is just when you think your baby has it down, then the patterns
change all over again.
After an all time peak of 6 hours in month 2, my baby couldn't string more than 2
hours together from month 3 to month 6. Then all of a sudden she started sleeping
for 4 hour stretches. Then at 9 months she was only waking up once at night. Then
back to waking up twice a night. and so on.
Hang it there,
it does get better. (and then worse, then better, . . .
Our 6 month baby is starting to sleep for longer stretches at
night. After sleeping for only 2-4 hours at a time, she is now
up to 7-8 hours at a time. While this is wonderful news, I am
now wondering what to do about my discomfort from overfull
breasts in the middle of the night. I have been waking up and
pumping a small amount to relieve the pain. Will my body
adjust with time? I am concerned about developing plugged
ducts, etc. Please share your experiences with me. thanks!
You need to stop pumping at night! That just trains your body
to produce more milk at that time. If you can stand the pain
for a few nights, your body will naturally adjust to your
baby's new rhythm and produce less milk at night. It only
takes a couple of days. And by the way, congratulations on
your baby sleeping through the night!
mother of two
Pumping will only prolong your problem...as its a supply and
demand system. If you just live with the discomfort for a few
nights, your body will automatically adjust and stop making so
much milk at night.
Stop pumping! That will only make matters worse. Your breasts
will adjust to the new routine in a few days. In the meantime,
you might want to sleep on a towel in case of leaks. And enjoy
Breastfeeding is about supply and demand, so the more the demand
(baby sucking/pumping), the more milk you make. It takes about
24 hours for your body to respond to either a request for more
(a hungry baby, frequent feeds, or pumping) or a decrease in
demand (baby is bigger, can sleep longer). Your body will get
used to whatever your baby asks for, but there is about a 24
hour lag-time until that's accomplished. So, stop pumping at
night, let your baby nurse long and full when s/he does, and
tough it out for a couple of nights. It's not so bad. You can
use ice packs (or cold cabbage leaves)to help reduce swelling,
tylenol if it's really painful. Your miraculous body will adjust
to this, too. Good luck.
Do not depair! Your body will adjust. Try to get through the
intial mights without pumping in the middle of the night. You
may want to limit your fluid intake before going to bed; feed
your baby right before she goes to sleep; wear a bra with
nursing pads so you don't leak on the bed (very uncomfortable);
take Motrin to reduce swelling; place a refrigerated large
piece of cabbage inside your bra over your breast to reduce
inflamation.There is a chemical in the cabbage that really does
Your milk supply will adjust. Try to go a few more hours each
night between pumping, and eventually (after 4-5 days) you
should be able to longer, and soon the whole night. Our daughter
sleeps 9-10 hours and now I feed her at night, and in the AM,
pumping right after the morning feeding to pump off any excess
milk. My daytime milk supply has stayed fine and I no longer
feel like I'm going to burst first thing in the morning.
yes, your breasts will adjust with time. For now, continue with
what you are doing, pumping a little to relieve stress but not
emptying them out.
Yes, your body will adjust in time. And the more you pump, the
longer it will take, because by pumping you're telling your body
that the extra milk is needed! If you don't need the addition
to the freezer stash and you're not experiencing real pain, try
going without the pump; loose, comfortable clothes at night and
a little massage in the morning shower will help you avoid any
plugs. If your baby's new pattern continues, it shouldn't be
more than a week or so before you are no longer getting engorged.
After nursing for a year, I had the opportunity to wean my son
after traveling without him for a family emergency. He is
taking a formula quite happily, and I am grateful that the end
is in sight, however I am not enjoying my painful breasts.
Can anyone recommend the best way to quickly end my
milk production? Is it better to pump a little bit twice a day
just to relieve some of the pressure, or should I just suffer
with rock hard humungo breasts (do I risk infection if I do
this?). It would help to have some idea of time frame for
PS. Please no lectures on how it's too soon to stop.
Although the physical pain may be annoying, Im emotionally
very comfortable with this decision.
I had the same problem as you, I waited a week, thinking that my
body would stop the production. After a week, I pumped a very
small amount, until my breast felt comfortable. My body
adjusted, the production of milk ended and I felt very
comfortable. The trick is to pump just a little. Good luck, I
hope it works for you.
Pump just enough to relieve the engrogement but no more than
that, as often as you need to for comfort. Use green cabbage
leaves in your bra throughout the day.
This is the only way to safely and comfortably reduce your milk
supply/production. When you feel that your breasts are full to
the point of uncomfortable you need to pump to comfort. That is
usually 2-3 minutes. The body re-evalutes the amount of milk
produced according to how much is left in the breast. You do
risk infection if you try to suffer through engorgement. If you
just pump from uncomfortable to managable your body will start
to make less milk. Every woman responds differently. Some
downgrade in production quickly and will see a difference every
day and some do not respond as quickly...but if you only remove
small amounts until you are comfortable you will make less over
time. Two things you can do to speed up the process. Drink Sage
tea available from the health food store. Buy a head of cabbage
and put cold leaves in your supportive (not tight fitting) bra
until it wilts, then replace. Cabbage has drawing properties and
the cold is soothing to the tissues. You can also take an anti-
inflammatory to keep the swelling down. For more info call your
local La Leche League Leader. East Bay referral line is 510-496-
Go and pump! Right now, relieve those full breasts! Basically
the way to stop producing milk is to wean yourself from the baby
(or the pump) slowly. When I did it, I went from pumping 6 times
a day to 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to once, to once every 2 or 3 days, to
once a week to none. It took about 2 weeks but I never had a
problem with pain. Given that you hadn't pumped for a while, I
don't think you need to do the multiple times a day one, just go
and pump whenever your breasts feel full.
Hi- to answer your question, you have to do it gradually over
time. Even if he isn't BF still, every day over a week or two
you will have to pump a couple times a day and gradually reduce
the number of pumpings until its one a day and also reduce the
time you pump at each sitting until finally there is nothing....
so gradual is the way to go or risk painful infections down the
road if you don't.
Don't keep pumping. Wear a tight bra (or 2 bras if you don't
have one tight enough), don't touch or stimulate your breasts,
don't stand under a hot shower. You'll be uncomfortable for a
few days but fine by the end of the week! Good luck!
My tried and tested method stems from the old method of
binding. I put on one of my pre-pregnancy sports bras and wore
it night and day. 24hours for at least 7 days and you will
defineately see a difference. I used this method after both of
my children and was back to my usual breast size in no time.
Sage tea works wonders! Go to Whole Foods and get some bulk sage
(yes, the herb). Make two to three infusions a day of 1
tablespoon/1 cup hot water and you should see some results soon.
Best of luck!
Try cabbage leaves. Don't know why it works, but it does. When
I weaned my daughter, I was seriously, painfully engorged. A
lactation consultant told me to get cabbage leaves and slightly
crush them and wear them in my bra. They relieved the pain.
She said you can't do this for initial engorgement after birth
because it stops milk production. I walked around with cabbage
in my bra for 2 weeks!!
You will shriek with laughter and think I am nuts, but I swear
this works, and some hospitals use it for new moms who do not
wish to nurse and need to stop the milk production. Put cabbage
leaves in your bra. That's right. Buy a head of cabbage, and
stuff some in your bra, and change the leaves when they become
wilted. Cabbage contains something powerful to stop milk
production. I used it while weaning over the summer, and it was
painless. You can stop laughing now! PS- it wouldn't hurt to
pump just enough to relieve the pressure, not too much of
course. You don't want to stay rock-hard and risk a plugged
duct. Good luck.
Hope this helps
The only thing that ultimately worked for me was low-dose birth
control pills that my doctor prescribed for the sole purpose of
decreasing my milk production. My situation was a little
different from yours in that because my son would not latch on,
I was pumping four to five times a day, totaling 35-40 oz. per
day (and bottle feeding w/the breastmilk). After five months of
this grueling schedule, I had had it and was ready to start
weaning. Unfortunately, I could only get production down to
half the volume via mechanical methods: reducing frequency of
pumping (which resulted in two infections and painful, engorged
breasts), binding breasts (no fun at all) and icing them (also
no fun). On the BCPs, my production dramatically decreased to
just 8-10 oz per day within one month, and before the end of
the second month on BCPs, I was finished. Wish I had done this
sooner, and, according to my OBGYN, giving my son the pumped
milk while taking the low-dose estrogen was perfectly safe.
Best of luck to you.
this page was last updated: Jan 20, 2005
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network