One of the most common breast problems is engorgement, which is not only uncomfortable but may lead to difficulty in feeding and to infection. If the breasts are swollen and overfilled with milk, expressing the excess milk usually relieves the discomfort. This can be done by hand under a shower or into a container, or with the assistance of a breast pump. At other times, expressed milk may be kept and given to the baby by a carer while the mother is out or at work. Breastfeeding need not tie the mother to the home.
The infant may find it difficult to suckle on an overfilled breast, so expressing a little milk before the feed may be helpful. A well-fitted, supportive bra is essential for the mother’s comfort. Mild analgesics such as aspirin may be necessary, particularly before feeds, so that the feeding itself is less painful. Heat, in the form of a warm cloth or hot shower, will help with the expression of milk and with releasing milk from blocked areas of the breast.
Engorgement usually settles down after a few days or a week, but if the problem persists, fluid tablets can be used to reduce the amount of total fluid in the body and make it more difficult for the body to produce milk. In severe cases, partial suppression of the milk supply may be necessary.