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Your breasts

Your breasts will be larger at first and will continue to be so if you are breastfeeding regularly. If you don't intend to breastfeed, you don't need to do anything to reduce your milk supply. On the third or fourth day after your baby was born, your breasts may be tender because the milk is still being produced. Wearing a firm, supportive bra and taking regular pain relief may help. Your breasts will get smaller again in a week or so. Speak to your midwife if you're very uncomfortable.

Red, painful area on the breast

This is most common in women who are breast feeding and maybe due to infective or non-infective mastitis (inflammation of the breast).

An over-supply of milk can build up in your breasts for a variety of reasons. If your baby is not well attached it may be hard for them to take your milk effectively, and some parts of your breast may not be drained during a feed. This is the area of your breast that may feel sore or painful. It is worth checking to see if this is a possible cause so that you can prevent it from happening again. If you’re not sure, ask for help. Other common causes include wearing a bra that's too tight, a knock or blow to the breast, and missing a feed.

It’s important to deal with a sore breast or a blocked duct as soon as possible so that it doesn’t lead to mastitis.

If you have mastitis you're likely to have at least two of the following symptoms:

  • breast or breasts that feels hot and tender
  • a red patch of skin that's painful to touch
  • general feeling of illness, as if you have flu
  • feeling achy, tired and tearful
  • you may have an increased temperature

This can happen very suddenly and can get worse very quickly. It's important to carry on breastfeeding as this helps to speed up your recovery. If you think you might have a blocked duct or mastitis, try the following:

  • Check and improve the attachment of your baby at the breast – ask your midwife, health visitor or volunteer breastfeeding supporter
  • Feed your baby more often
  • Let your baby feed on the tender breast first
  • If your breasts still feel full after a feed or your baby can’t feed, hand express some milk to relieve the fullness
  • Warmth on your breast before a feed can help the milk to flow and make you feel more comfortable.
  • Try warm flannels or a bath or shower
  • While your baby is feeding, gently stroke the lumpy or tender area towards your nipple with your fingertips. This should help the milk to flow
  • Get as much rest as possible.
  • If you can, take a painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Mastitis may also be a sign of infection. If there's no improvement within 6 hours, or you start to feel worse, contact your GP or healthcare professional. If necessary, they can prescribe antibiotics that can be taken while breastfeeding.


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