Breast engorgement is the overfilling of the breasts with milk. This can happen when milk isn't being removed well from the breasts by
breastfeeding, pumping, or expressing by hand. Severely engorged breasts
become increasingly hard, swollen, and tender. The nipples and areolae can
become hard and flattened, making it difficult for a baby to latch on to the
A mother with a regular breastfeeding routine can become engorged
if she cannot nurse or pump as much as usual or suddenly stops breastfeeding.
A mother who doesn't begin breastfeeding after childbirth will have several
days of mild to moderate breast engorgement. This gradually goes away when the
breasts aren't stimulated to produce more milk.
Severe breast engorgement can cause a slight fever and tender lymph
nodes in the armpits. Without treatment, severe engorgement can lead to blocked
milk ducts and breast infection (mastitis).
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology