How do you stop engorgement? I was asked this question today. First lets talk about engorgement in general.
Engorgement is caused by having too much milk in the breasts. This is obviously very uncomfortable. I mean really, when you are engorged your breasts are at least double or triple their normal size. It's amazing how completely consumed your body becomes when this area is affected. I personally can't even lift my arms up to get dressed when I'm engorged. Engorgement is not only caused by the milk in your breasts, but swelling as well. Ibprofin can help reduce this swelling. Many people will tell you to put cabbage leaves in your bra to help with the pain. I disagree with this remedy. HEAT is what encourages your body to release the milk, so I believe that cooling the breasts contributes to the engorgement. I have a friend who was engorged for a whole week, and went through a lot of heads of cabbage. When she switched to heat and Ibprofin, it went away quickly. Lots of hot showers and baths, and frequent pumping to release some of the pressure is my best advice. Do not completely empty breasts with a pump, that will encourage more milk production, but just expessing a little bit of milk will help relieve the pressure.
So for the new mother who is engorged here is my plan of action- Heat, showers, frequent nursing/pumping, and Ibprofin. You don't want to do anything more than this if you want to continue nursing.
For the weaning mother I have some additional ideas to help engorgement. (Still use all of the above ideas too) When you are weaning, you are not only looking for relief from engorgement, but to stop milk production all together. Here are two things you can do to encourage your body to stop producing milk:
Sage- The herb "Sage" contains a natural estrogen, and therefore will decrease milk supply. Tinctures are the best and can be purchased at a local health food store. For instructions on using Sage to decrease milk click here. This website www.kellymom.com is a great resource for all breastfeeding questions.
Birth Control Pills- The majority of Birth Control pills contain estrogen, and estrogen suppresses milk supply. When I weaned my second baby I dried up in ONE DAY, with the assistance of a Birth Control Pill. It only took one pill for me, and I was dry as a bone. Birth control pills can now be purchased for $9 in their generic form at Walmart pharmacies. (Click here to see the list of their super cheap generic medications)
Benadryl or Sudafed- As an antihistamine, these drugs are designed to dry up bodily secretions. Milk included. Take a few of these, and it should really help you dry up.
My only other advice for weaning is to do it slowly if you can. Start dropping one feeding a week until you are done. Of course everyone is different, and this just isn't possible for everyone.