Your breasts will start filling with milk anytime from about 2 to 5 days after the birth. This process can bring with it intense emotions as you deal with being unable to feed your child on your full and often painful breasts. Some women would rather not deal with this constant reminder, but for others it can reinforce the fact that they are a mother and have had a baby.
The breasts can feel very hot and painful to touch, as the milk comes in. The discomfort can last for a few days, up to 7 to 10 days. This is called 'engorgement', making the woman feel uncomfortable, even to be hugged at this time. Wearing a well-fitting bra day and night can help. It will firmly hold the breasts in place and reduce any stimulation of the nipples. You may wish to take some mild pain killers to help with the discomfort, (such a paracetamol).
Some women prefer to wear no bra, just a loose T-shirt, allowing the milk to slowly drip (although not every woman will actually 'leak' milk), lying on a towel at night to soak up the milk if it is leaking. This can sometimes feel more comfortable and reduce the 'engorged' and painful feelings.
Cabbage leaves or cool gel packs used to be used, but have now been shown not to be that effective for relieving engorgement. However, cold compresses may be soothing and pain relieving for hot, sore breasts. Place the cool packs, or compresses, on the breasts for about 10 minutes every half hour, when you are awake. Avoid leaving them on for longer periods, as this may cause damage to the blood circulation in the breasts.
If your breasts develop painful, reddened areas on the skin and you have a fever and feel unwell, you may be developing mastitis, (an infection of the breast tissue). This may need to be treated with antibiotics, seek the advice of your local doctor or caregiver.