Breast engorgement is a common condition that occurs when there is an excess of milk in the breasts, often in the first few weeks after childbirth. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including changes in hormone levels, infrequent or ineffective breastfeeding or pumping, or an oversupply of milk.

Signs and symptoms

  • Swelling and fullness of the breast
  • Breast tenderness or pain
  • Firmness or hardness of the breast
  • Warmth and redness of the breast
  • Shiny, stretched, or tight skin on the breast
  • Nipple soreness or sensitivity
  • Difficulty latching or breastfeeding due to breast size or shape changes
  • Low-grade fever and flu-like symptoms, in some cases

Common Causes

  • Hormonal changes: In the first few days after giving birth, the body undergoes hormonal changes that can cause the breasts to produce more milk than the baby can consume.
  • Delayed breastfeeding: Delaying breastfeeding or pumping can cause the milk to build up in the breasts.
  • Poor latching: If the baby is not latching properly or is not nursing frequently enough, milk may accumulate in the breast.
  • Breastfeeding difficulties: Breastfeeding difficulties, such as pain or discomfort during nursing, can cause mothers to nurse less frequently.
  • Skipping feedings: Skipping feedings or pumping sessions can cause milk to accumulate in the breast.
  • Weaning: Abrupt weaning or sudden changes in breastfeeding patterns can lead to engorgement as the milk supply adjusts to the new demand.
  • Oversupply of milk: An oversupply of milk can lead to engorgement as the breasts produce more milk than the baby can consume.

How physiotherapy can help with breast engorgement

  • Manual lymphatic drainage: A physiotherapist can perform gentle massage techniques to promote lymphatic drainage and reduce swelling in the This may help to relieve pain and improve milk flow.
  • Ultrasound therapy: Ultrasound therapy involves the use of sound waves with the aim of promoting healing and reducing inflammation. A physiotherapist may use ultrasound therapy to help reduce swelling and improve circulation in the breast tissue.
  • Exercise: Gentle exercises such as stretching and range-of-motion exercises may help to improve circulation and reduce swelling in the breasts. A physiotherapist can provide guidance on safe exercises that can be performed to help relieve symptoms of engorgement.
  • Education and support: A physiotherapist may provide education and support to help mothers manage breast engorgement and prevent complications such as mastitis or blocked milk ducts. They may provide guidance on breastfeeding techniques, pumping, and other strategies for managing engorgement.