Relief for Breast Engorgement Pain After Stillbirth

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If you've just had a stillbirth, miscarriage, or your baby died shortly after delivery, you may need relief from the breast engorgement pain you're experiencing. Women in these tragic situations may very well have their milk come in and experience the discomfort of engorgement. 

Some women choose to pump their breast milk and donate it. This is something to consider if you feel it will be healing for you. If not, do not feel guilty about using the tips below to help you get through this period as comfortably as possible.

Wear Supportive Bras and Take Warm Showers

In the past, women were encouraged to bind their breasts tightly, but that may actually cause more discomfort and lead to plugged ducts. The best option is a well-fitted bra with plenty of support. A sports bra may be particularly comfortable for you.

In addition, try to avoid stimulating your breasts. If you haven't been pumping or breastfeeding, you may be able to get through lactation and engorgement very quickly by avoiding stimulation.

Even warm water in the shower could be enough to stimulate a let-down reflex or encourage milk production. There are products available to help support and protect sensitive breasts in the shower, such as the Shower Hug, if you find the water pressure too intense. It's also helpful to face away from the shower head to avoid water pressure on the breasts.

Use Ice Packs

Ice packs are ideal for coping with tender breasts during the first few days postpartum. There are many unique ways of applying cold packs to your breasts, such as using small bags of frozen veggies, freezing a damp washcloth in a zipper bag or adding a small amount of rubbing alcohol to water in a zipper bag to make a flexible ice pack. Commercial ice packs work as well.

Apply chilled cabbage leaves. This is a traditional remedy to relieve engorgement. Separate and wash the leaves from a head of cabbage. Keep them in the refrigerator. Break off the stems and crush the leaves lightly in your hands just before applying them to your breasts.

Don’t cover your nipples, but you can apply the leaves all over the rest of your breasts. Change them every 30 minutes, or sooner if they don’t feel cool anymore.

Consider Medications

Talk to your doctor about medications that have been found to be effective in suppressing lactation. Most physicians and midwives recommend trying non-pharmacologic techniques first, as these drugs can have significant side effects such as nausea, dizziness, and headache.

Express Some Milk and Reduce Pumping 

If you are feeling very engorged and uncomfortable, it’s okay to let a little milk out. It may be the only way to ease the feeling of fullness. Unless you’ve already established breastfeeding or pumping prior to your baby’s death, you’ll probably get enough relief through hand expression.

If you were already feeding or pumping when your baby died, it will be more difficult to taper your milk supply, but it is possible. Work on eliminating one pumping session at a time. Shorten the time you pump at that session by a few minutes each day until it has been eliminated (this may take three to seven days). Then move on to another pumping session and repeat the process.

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Article Sources
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