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Breastfeeding Basics: Engorgement and Mastitis

Here's the signs and what you can do about them.

Breastfeeding Basics: Engorgement and Mastitis

Hundreds of years ago, when it really took a village to raise a child, breastfeeding moms had only to look left or right to get the support they needed when something seemed awry. Nowadays, we come home from the hospital and plant ourselves -- by ourselves -- in our oh-so-beautiful nurseries, hoping our well-meaning houseguests don’t barge in on us half-naked with the babe at the boob.

So it’s no surprise we often miss the warning signs of some of the breastfeeding biggies -- engorgement and mastitis -- which, left to their own devices, can be the downfall for a nursing mom. If you and baby are working in sync, breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, says Rosenfeld. Pain is a sign that something’s not right, and with a little help from a lactation consultant or doctor, you can -- and should -- keep right on breastfeeding.

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Below, certified lactation consultant Freda Rosenfeld points out the warning signs of engorgement and mastitis and shows you how to prevent pain from hijacking your nursing experience.

When you might notice engorgement. On about Day 3 after birth, your milk comes in. Virtually all women have some hardness or engorgement. The better the baby nurses, the less likely you are to get engorgement. In these first few days, you want to nurse on the baby’s schedule. The more frequently you nurse baby, the more your body will adjust and the more you can drain your breasts.

How to spot engorgement and what to do about it. If the baby is not draining the breast, or you’re making too much milk, you might need help. You can try putting ice on your breast because it reduces inflammation. Sometimes people use green cabbage leaves -- cabbage has similar properties to ice and constricts the blood vessels. If that doesn’t do the trick, then there’s something else going on. When your areola gets too hard for the baby to latch, or your breasts feel red or hot, those are signs that something is not good. There are some medical issues that cause engorgement; women who have thyroid issues or retain placenta are often women that make too much milk. If by Day 6 you’re not feeling engorgement resolving, it’s time to call a lactation consultant.

Engorgement vs. clogged milk ducts. Clogged milk ducts in your breast can be a variation of engorgement. These can be pockets of hard spots -- it may not be that the whole breast is hard as a rock -- but that too can lead to mastitis if you don’t address it. If your baby is 5 weeks old, but suddenly you have a hard spot, you can try a warm compress, but if it doesn’t get better, call in a professional.

Engorgement can lead to mastitis. If engorgement is left untreated, it can lead to mastitis, which is an infection of the breast. Mastitis can be extremely dangerous. The best way to avoid mastitis is to nurse as much as you can so that you and baby get off to a good pattern. Before we assume you have mastitis, a professional may be able to suggests techniques that will help reduce the engorgement and help baby drain the breast. But once you’ve determined that you have mastitis, it needs to be treated with antibiotics, so call your doctor. You can continue to nurse with mastitis, even while you’re being treated.

Nursing on both breasts helps mastitis. More often than not, mastitis is unilateral, so you need to get into a pattern where you are nursing on both breasts and emptying both breasts at the same time. Depending on the way your body produces milk, a professional could give you advice on varying breasts for nursing and determine if that’s safe, but you shouldn’t make that choice without the help of a lactation consultant or a doctor.

Repeat mastitis might mean something's wrong. If you’ve had mastitis three times, something is wrong. There’s lots of ways to slow your milk flow besides ice, so you should seek help to evaluate your milk supply, nipple conditions, baby’s sucking or other issues. Pain is a horrible thing and can be caused by many things, but with most women, we can find a way to make it better and continue nursing.

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By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

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Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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