Rockville Lactation

Lynnette Hafken, MA, IBCLC

Lactation Consultant

text (fastest response) or call: (240) 888-2123

email: [email protected]

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Reverse pressure softening technique for engorged breasts when milk is “stuck”

Note: Please also read this page if you are experiencing engorgement or painful breasts.

When engorgement becomes very severe, “milk stasis” can occur. Basically the milk gets stuck, because the tissue inside is so swollen, the ducts carrying the milk are squeezed tight. This makes it hard for the milk to flow. Pumping for too long can make this worse, as suction pulls all fluids forward, not just the milk. It's important, however, to try to remove what milk you can, either by pumping or hand expressing or both, because that will signal to your body that ongoing milk production is necessary.

A technique called reverse pressure softening helps reduce the pressure on the milk ducts, triggers the letdown reflex, and allows the milk to flow out. Getting even a small amount of milk out reduces pressure inside the breast, allowing swelling to decrease, which makes room for more milk to flow out. This also softens the areola and helps baby latch on.

 Video by Newman Breastfeeding Clinic

Short, frequent pumping sessions after the milk starts flowing can also help soften the breasts; make sure the suction is at a comfortable level. After several nursing or pumping sessions, the engorgement will be much less painful.