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Coping with Breast Engorgement

Breastfeeding isn't for everyone. There are many reasons some women cannot or do not want to nurse, including the fact that certain medications moms really need (anti-seizure drugs, blood-pressure medications) and medical conditions (being HIV positive, a previous breast surgery) can pose a risk to their infants.

If you're not planning to nurse, be prepared for a bit of discomfort until your body catches up with your decision. "You will experience several days of being uncomfortably full and sore when milk production kicks in (about three to five days after giving birth), and then your breasts will 'deflate,'" says M. Kelly Shanahan, M.D., an ob-gyn at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, CA.

Ease the temporary discomfort of engorgement by wearing a snug sports bra, placing cold cabbage leaves inside your bra cups or applying an ice pack to your breasts intermittently, and taking acetaminophen (Tylenol). And turn your back to the warm water while showering, says Dr. Shanahan. Just having warm water rain down on them will stimulate more milk production, instead of letting your supply dry up.

Beth Howard is a freelance writer.

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