Engorgement, Milk Stasis and Mastitis

Engorgement, Milk Stasis and Mastitis


Engorgement: It is normal for the mother’s breasts to get larger, heavier and tender when the mother’s milk “comes in”.  This is caused by extra blood and lymph fluids moving to the breasts to help get them ready to produce milk as well to the increasing volume of the milk itself.

The baby that is allowed to breastfeed whenever it wants in the early days after the birth may breastfeed for short periods of time, as often as a few minutes every hour, or for long stretches until the milk “comes in”.  If a mother’s baby breastfeeds often and well it has a less likely chance of experiencing painful engorgement.

If you experience engorgement and the baby is having a difficult time latching on you can:

  • Express milk by hand or with a pump until the breast is soft enough for the baby to latch on.
  • Use brief heat and massage right before breastfeeding which will relax and stimulate the milk flow.
  • Breastfeed frequently and have the baby finish the first breast before offering the other.
  • Fully drain the breast once or twice with an effective breast pump.
  • Use cold compresses between the feedings to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Use cabbage leaves to sooth the pain of engorgement.


Milk Stasis: Milk stasis is when the milk is not removed from the breast quickly enough and it “backs up”.  It can be prevented by frequent nursing or pumping until the breast becomes soft enough to nurse on.  If not taken care of it can lead to a breast abscess which may require surgery.


Mastitis: Is a term used to describe any inflammation of the breast.

Symptoms of mastitis are:

  • It comes on suddenly.
  • The pain is localized.
  • The breast is red, hot, and swollen.
  • The mother has flu like symptoms.
  • The mother has a temperature of 101 degrees or higher.

What to do?

  • Apply wet or dry heat to the affected area and massage gently while it is still warm.
  • Continue to breastfeed the baby or hand express some of the milk right after treating the area with warmth and massage.
  • Breastfeed frequently on the affected side.
  • Wear loose clothing; take some time off from the bra.
  • Try different nursing positions.
  • Rest

If symptoms do not get better within 24 hours the mother will need to see her Dr. for possible antibiotic treatment.


Engorgement, Milk Stasis and Mastitis