Breast swelling is a common but temporary problem that usually starts during the first few days after birth and resolves within a day or two. The swelling may be from the fluid shifts associated with pregnancy, labor and delivery or it may be from the increase in your milk production. These two different types of breast swellings look the same but you need a different technique for each to soften the breast and make it easier for your baby to breastfeed effectively and comfortably.
Swollen breasts within the first three days are almost certainly from extra retention of water in your tissues. Hormonal shifts after delivery, intravenous fluids and side effects of medications given during labor can cause both your ankles and breasts to swell, which can flatten your nipples. If water retention is the cause of the swelling, pumping your breasts may make the problem worse. Imagine if you had a “fat lip” from an injury. The last thing you would want to do is apply suction. That would only draw more fluid into your lips and increase the swelling.
Swelling in the tissue from extra water can also get in the way of milk flow when the milk increases between the second and fourth day. That’s why it is a good idea to reduce the swelling from postpartum oedema before pumping.
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Reverse Pressure Softening works well.
It’s a way to soften the areola to make latching and removing your milk easy while your baby and you are learning.
Latching should not be painful
This method is not the same as removing milk with your fingers
Don’t expect milk to come from your nipple each time but it’s OK if some milk does come out.
Early swelling, firmness or fullness may be only partly due to milk.
Some swelling may be from extra fluid stored (retained) in the spongy, protective tissue around your milk ducts. (This extra fluid can never go to your baby.)
Delayed milk removal often leads later to retained tissue fluid.
Frequent, regular removal of small amounts of early milk is best
Intravenous (IV) fluids, or drugs such as pitocin may often cause early, extra retained tissue fluid, sometimes taking 7-14 days to go away.
Reverse pressure softening briefly moves mild or firmer swelling away from under your areola, slightly backward into your breast for a short period of 5-10 minutes.
This allows your areola to change shape very easily, and makes latching easier.
The softened areola helps your nipple extend more deeply into baby’s mouth.
Reverse pressure softening also causes a let-down reflex.
A soft areola also makes it easier to remove milk with fingertips or with short periods of slow gentle pumping.
If you need to remove milk for your baby with fingertips or pump, use reverse pressure softening, whenever needed. You may also gently massage milk forward in the breast.
Avoid long pumping sessions and high vacuum settings on breast pumps to avoid movement of extra retained tissue fluid into the areola and nipple.