Many nursing mums, especially those who are trying to wean, may experience pain and discomfort from engorged breasts. Some people may resort to applying a heating pad to their breasts to feel better.
But is this safe? While heating pads can help to reduce swelling and improve milk flow, they can also cause burns if used improperly.
In this article, we will explore the potential risks and benefits of using a heating pad on engorged breasts and alternative methods for relieving this discomfort.
We will also discuss when it may be necessary to seek medical attention for engorged breasts.
Potential benefits of using a heating pad on engorged breasts
The potential benefits of using a heating pad on engorged breasts include the following:
Pro 1: Reducing swelling and discomfort:
The warmth from a heating pad can help increase blood flow and relax muscle tissues, reducing swelling and discomfort.
This helps to reduce swelling by bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
The relaxation of the breast muscles brought on by the heat can also assist in lessening discomfort.
Pro 1: Improving milk flow:
Using a heating pad on the breasts may help to improve milk flow by stimulating the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps to facilitate milk production and let-down.
The heat from the heating pad can also help relax the muscles in the breasts, improving milk flow.
It is important to remember that each individual may experience a heating pad’s effects on milk flow differently.
Some women could discover that it significantly relieves their symptoms, while others might not see much of a difference.
Potential risks of using a heating pad on engorged breasts?
Con 1: Burns and skin irritation:
If used incorrectly or left on the skin for an extended period, heating pads can result in burns and skin irritation.
The heat may harm the skin if the heating pad is used for an extended time or at a high level. Skin irritation or burns may result from this.
Additionally, it is a good idea to only use the heating pad briefly, as prolonged use might dry up the skin and make it worse.
Con 2: Risk of falling asleep with the heating pad on:
Imagine you are having a rough day and using the heating pads as a way to find relief. The heat from the heating pad can be relaxing and may make you feel drowsy.
Chances are, you might even fall asleep with the heating pads on your breast!
Now, this can turn into a hazard since this has the chance of damaging the skin on your breast, after prolonged usage.
It might be a good idea to try an alternative way for treating your engorgement, such as a warm shower or compress, or to seek advice from a healthcare professional if you are experiencing extreme discomfort and are finding it difficult to stay awake.
How to choose a good heating pad
Electric and microwaveable heating pads are the two main varieties on the market. Every variety has advantages and disadvantages of its own, so it’s crucial to think about which is best for your needs.
Electric heating pads
Electric heating pads are the most common type, as most of them can be tuned to different temperatures and generate heat using power.
Although they require more time to heat up, they are frequently more durable and long-lasting than microwaveable heating pads.
The downside is that they are also more expensive to run because they require an electrical outlet.
Microwaveable heating pads
Microwaveable heating pads are heated pads that can provide warmth and relief from muscle aches and pains. They are often loaded with heat-retaining ingredients such as rice, wheat, or dry beans.
Some microwaveable heating pads also include washable and replaceable covers. They are a simple and convenient approach to administering heat to a specific body area.
However, they may need to be replaced more regularly because they are not as strong or long-lasting as electric heating pads.
The disadvantage is that they may also be less effective in maintaining a steady temperature.
Consider your usage
It’s crucial to consider your requirements and preferences when selecting a heating pad for breastfeeding.
A microwaveable heating pad can be the ideal choice if you require a heating pad that is simple to use and warms up rapidly.
An electric heating pad can be a better option if you want a heating pad that is more robust and long-lasting.
Additionally, the cost of use should be considered because using electric heating pads may become more expensive with time.
Alternative methods for relieving engorged breasts
If you nurse frequently, the chance of you experiencing engorgement or mastitis is pretty low.
This is because by nursing often, the extra milk is removed from the breasts, and a healthy milk supply is maintained. This can be quite helpful in preventing engorgement.
Use cold compresses
You can use cold compresses on your breasts to help reduce swelling and pain associated with engorged breasts. If you are having a painful nipple, a cold compress can help too!
You can do this by wrapping a bag of frozen veggies or a cold, damp cloth in a thin towel and applying it to your breasts for a few minutes at a time.
Do this as often as you need to, but make sure to let your breasts warm up to room temperature before feeding again.
Try different nursing positions
Trying out different breastfeeding positions can help relieve engorged breasts and prevent mastitis.
Different postures can aid in the drainage of the breasts, making it simpler for your infant to latch on and remove milk from the breasts.
Here are a few nursing positions to try:
- Cradle hold
- Cross-cradle hold
- Football hold
- Side-lying position
Experiment with various positions to determine which works best for you and your baby.
It may need some trial and error, but you will ultimately find a position that is both comfortable and effective for both of you.
Expressing milk can help relieve engorged breasts and prevent mastitis by eliminating extra milk from the breasts and preventing pressure and discomfort from building up.
Take a pain reliever
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), can help to alleviate the discomfort and inflammation caused by engorged breasts and mastitis.
These drugs can be used orally according to the package instructions.
Remember to take these drugs exactly as prescribed and not exceed the maximum daily dose.
Lots of rest and water
When you are nursing, it is critical to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to preserve your general health and well-being.
These measures can also assist in enhancing your immune system and prevent mastitis, a painful breast infection caused by improper milk removal from the breasts.
When to seek medical attention for engorged breasts?
You should seek medical attention for engorged breasts if:
Your engorgement persists despite home remedies:
If you have tried home remedies such as warm showers, warm compresses, massaging your breasts, and wearing a supportive bra, and your engorgement persists, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare provider.
They can assess your situation and guide you on managing your engorgement.
You are concerned about using a heating pad or other methods:
It is a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional if you are unsure whether to use a heating pad or other techniques to relieve your engorgement.
They can evaluate your case and advise you on how to safely manage your engorgement.
You are experiencing other symptoms:
If you are experiencing other symptoms besides engorgement, such as fever, chills, or redness in the breasts, it is important to seek medical attention.
These could be signs of an infection, and it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
In conclusion, using a heating pad on engorged breasts can provide relief by reducing swelling and improving milk flow.
However, it is important to use a low or medium setting and to never fall asleep with the heating pad on your breasts, as this can increase the risk of burns and skin irritation.
Warm showers, warm compresses, breast massages, and cold packs are other treatments for engorged breasts.
It is a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional if your engorgement does not go away despite using home treatments or if you are unclear about whether or not to use a heating pad.
They can evaluate your particular case and give you advice on how to safely manage your engorgement.
By understanding the potential risks and benefits of using a heating pad on engorged breasts and seeking medical attention, you can effectively manage this condition and find relief.