Breast Swelling After Having a Baby

What is breast swelling?

Breast swelling after you have had your baby can cause difficulties with breastfeeding and can be painful. Breast swelling usually starts about 3 days after you have had your baby and can last as long as 14 days. Breast swelling may be caused by: increased blood flow to your breasts, decreased lymph flow from breast tissue, increase in milk production, and an increase in interstitial fluid [also known as edema]. If you had an IV (drip) when you were in labour, you may have increased breast swelling.

What effects can breast swelling have on breastfeeding?

Postpartum breast swelling as can negatively impact breastfeeding. It can reduce the amount of milk your baby drinks while breastfeeding and it can slow down milk production. When your breasts are swollen, it is like a traffic jam, with lots of fluid needing to move, but being unable to. To treat the swelling, we need to encourage fluid movement.

What can I do to treat breast swelling?

Before a feed:

Heat therapy: you can use warm compresses, a hot shower or a bowl of hot water for soaking before feeding, hand expressing or pumping (expressing) milk. This can sometimes help milk flow a bit better by encouraging milk ducts to expand.

Hand expressioncan help remove some of your milk and help ease pressure within your breasts, which may help improve fluid movement. For more details on hand expression, please contact me directly.

Reverse pressure softening (RPS): may help soften the areola enough so your baby can latch deeper onto your breast, and this may help improve his/her effectiveness while breastfeeding. For more details on RPS, click here:

Gentle massage: massaging your breasts gently in small circular motions, moving all the way around your breasts will also help improve fluid movement. Do gentle massage before and during breastfeeding, hand expression, and pumping.

After a feed:

Ice packs or cabbage leavesafter breastfeeding, hand expressing, or pumping milk can help reduce swelling. Apply cold or room temperature cabbage leaves to your breasts for up to 20 minutes after feeds. Do not use cabbage leaves if you are allergic to cabbage or sulpha drugs. You can also use ice-packs if you prefer for up to 10 minutes.

Supportive bra: Wearing a supportive but not restrictive bra will help support your breasts and will help them feel more comfortable.

What else can I do?

Eating foods that naturally help reduce swelling from retained fluid can also help with breast swelling.

These foods are known to be natural diuretics:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Watercress
  • Brussels
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Cranberries
  • Horseradish
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Fennel
  • grapes
  • Dandelion Leaf
  • Watermelon
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Raw Onion

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