Q: My breasts feel like huge, hard, painful watermelons. Is there anything I can do to relieve the swelling?
A: Frequent nursing is the best way to ease engorgement, which typically occurs 72 hours after giving birth and can last up to a week, or until your milk production system adjusts to the job at hand. Meantime, aim to breastfeed eight to 12 times a day, or about every two to three hours, for the first several weeks. Before each session, apply warm compresses and hand-express a little milk to soften your breast and help your baby latch on, advises Jane Morton, M.D., a pediatrician at Burgess Pediatrics in Menlo Park, Calif., and former director of the Breastfeeding Medicine Program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. To minimize swelling, apply cold compresses (such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin dish towel) between feedings and wear a supportive nursing bra 24/7. And beware: You may become engorged at any time—even after your milk production system has regulated itself—if your baby goes longer than usual between feedings, such as sleeping for extended periods.