How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts

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It has been more than 20 years since I stopped breastfeeding my second son. To be honest as a mother of two males after all this time I have never given another thought about how to sleep with engorged breasts. Enter a daughter in law and grandson number one.

Well, I have to say that a crying newborn is one thing! But when you have a crying new mother who is in a world of pain that is something else!

The short answer is firstly to relax stressing will not help. Your body will adjust to the milk production with a little assistance. A breast pump is what you need to use when those feed times are becoming further apart. You only need to pump enough milk to make yourself feel comfortable.

Read on for some other tips so you can get a little more comfortable sleep yourself.

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How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts

Congratulations your precious little one is sleeping a bit longer. Now we need to get you some longer periods of sleep while your baby sleeps longer.

The aim here is to make you more comfortable so you can get some more sleep during the times your baby sleeps a little longer between feeds.

At all times you should remain aware of your body. At this busy time of your life, everything can become overwhelming. So do not be afraid to reach out and ask for guidance.

If you experience any signs of plugged ducts you should seek medical assistance. The same for any other symptoms you may experience such as mastitis.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Engorgement

Some of the side effects of engorged breasts include backaches, leaking breasts, sleeplessness, blocked ducts, and mastitis.

Feed Baby or Let Baby Sleep?

Deciding on whether to wake your baby during the night for a feed is a big decision that many mothers struggle with.

One of the biggest is the fact that we do not want to disturb our baby’s sleep. Or worse ruin their sleep patterns.


Although the choice was easy for me for others not so much.

You could conduct your own private experiment between you and your baby. Go in and ever so gently try to get baby to latch and suckle.

If they are not interested in feeding snuggle them back down. Then make a note of how long it is before they do wake for a feed.

If it is a short time after you have tried to wake them then maybe you can just continue feeding them on demand during the night.

If it is quite a while after you have disturbed them I would say you could probably pump a little off the top to make yourself comfortable.

Then snuggle down and get some sleep yourself.

Remember we are all different some of us will make more milk than others, just as some babies will start to sleep for longer periods of time between feeds.

Be Prepared with the Best Equipment

The equipment I refer to is, of course, breast pumps. I myself used a manual pump which was more than satisfactory all those years ago and they still are today. See the range at great prices available at Amazon have click here…

Also on offer, these days are electric models which is what I gave Skye (my daughter-in-law) as a baby shower gift.

They really are an absolute time-saver, when you are tired it really is what you need so you can get back to sleep quickly.

The image below is of Skye’s electric breast pump there are many available at Amazon for various prices to check them and the prices out for yourself click here.

How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts
This is the Beast Pump Skye used

How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts

1. Preparing Yourself for Sleep Your Comfort / Your Bed / Your Bedroom

Fresh clean and comfortable night clothes are a must. Check out the Kindred Bravely Brand in the link below where I talk about nursing bras.

They also have tanks, washable nursing pads, pajamas, socks, underwear, nursing wraps, and many more items to keep you comfortable and feeling great about yourself.

Change your bed linens regularly to keep them fresh and clean.

A waterproof pillow protector is awesome to combat any leakages that may occur during the night. The last thing you need right now is to go pillow shopping.

Same for your mattress there are some awesome ones on the market today. As well as the old-fashioned ones there are some really lofty ones. These can give your mattress a nice pillow top feel.

You could use a towel under the top of your body as many have done before. But there are also some waterproof options that can rest between yourself and the sheet.

Your relaxing fragrance sprinkled under your pillow. My relaxing scent is a lavender essential oil. If you do not like a strong fragrance while sleeping why not try one of those new diffusers and mix your own concoction.

Warm fluffy socks, slippers, and robe near your bed.

We all know what it is like to be woken from a deep sleep by our babies crying so be prepared. A softly diffused light either in your bedroom or hallway so you don’t have to move around the house in the dark when baby calls.

2. Preparing for Possible Engorgement

Sleeping with a nursing bra should not feel too tight or restricting. The support will definitely assist you in feeling more comfortable.

Nursing tanks are another option and they are very comfortable. They come in all shapes and sizes, complete with washable breast pads. Disposable nursing pads can also be stuck in there if heavy leakage is a problem.

The ones we loved and purchased are the Kindred Bravely Brand. They are not the cheapest nor are they most expensive but the quality and purpose are perfect.

They also have a fantastic range of nightgowns that look like dresses. You won’t mind being seen any of these at any time of the day.

After purchasing Kindred Bravely products and loving them I just had to tell you all about them here in a separate article on my site.

You could also wear both together for additional support.

Don’t stay awake waiting for your baby’s last feed.

If it has been some time since your baby’s last feed pump a little off the top and settle down for sleep.

If the baby happens to wake a little earlier than expected you will still have enough milk to satisfy them.

An alternative to pumping could be to take a warm shower or bath and massage your breasts to relieve some milk.

This strategy is twofold as you will get pressure relief and a relaxing bath to help you get to sleep.

Uncomfortable While Sleeping When Engorged

We all sleep in different positions. If you sleep on your back and find that you are achy or sore when you awake. Try tilting onto your side a little and slide a pillow underneath. It could well relieve some of the pressure on your upper body while sleeping.

How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts

3. Treating Engorgement

The simple treatments below will give almost instant relief for the engorgement.

Pumping a Little off the Top

Remember that your breasts are operating on a supply and demand basis. So don’t be discouraged about pumping a little milk throughout the night as it will give you instant relief.

You do not want to be pumping too much milk only enough to make you feel comfortable. This may happen a couple of times during the night depending on how long your baby stays asleep.

But it should only take a couple of nights for your body to adjust.

Don’t be tempted to pump the equivalent to a baby’s feed out during the night even though the relief is heavenly.

If you pump too much milk out at say 4 or 5 hourly intervals you are telling your body that your baby wants more milk.

The outcome is that you will be making a lot more milk and could suffer engorgement at any time. Not only at night.

Remember that you can take a little off the top not only at night but also at any time when required.

If you wake up extremely engorged and in pain, I have a tip that could help. It is to apply heat to your breasts to soften them a little before pumping. You could use warm face clothes or alternatively a wheat pack heated in the microwave.

Shower or Bath

A warm shower or bath and gentle massage will certainly relieve your soreness. My only concern with this is that I would not want to be stimulated by the shower. I know that I would not be able to settle back down to sleep.

But once again we are all different. I know people that have hot showers at night and go straight to sleep!

Other Options

It has been said through generations that green cabbage leaves can be used to relieve engorgement. Keep cabbage leaves in the refrigerator.

To use the cabbage leaf: – after feeding mold the leaf around your breast avoiding the nipple. Leave in place for about 3 minutes or until it wilts. When finished wash your breasts thoroughly.

You should only carry out this treatment when engorgement symptoms are present. To do this treatment all the time could affect your production of milk.

You could also try some ice or gel packs throughout the night.

Booby Tubes can be used cold to relieve your engorged breasts and ducts. They can also be warmed in the microwave to help promote milk let down. There are also various other things you can use these tubes for.

5. Other Reasons for Baby not feeding Through the Night

Another thing to remember especially if you are a first-time mother is that babies can change their sleeping habits at any time.

Growth spurts are a factor a lot of times they sleep longer than they normally would.

Teething is another factor teething disrupts everything.

They may be a little unwell so sleep a little longer until the symptoms show. Then we realize that they have been unwell without us knowing.

Conclusion – How to Sleep with Engorged Breasts

Your baby could start waking up through the night to feed again at any time. At this time you will require more milk. So be mindful of disrupting your milk supply or you could end up pumping to promote milk production.

Also, remember that there are professionals available to give you advice regarding you or your baby.

Enjoy every minute of breastfeeding your beautiful baby 🙂

As always here’s to better sleep!

Related Questions

How do I Get Rid of Engorged Breasts When Not Breastfeeding?

When you have finished breastfeeding you will now have to live through the uncomfortable task of stopping your milk supply. Your body will adjust to the lesser supply required but it will take time.

When your breasts become hard and uncomfortable express just a little off the top to relieve the pressure, in much the same way as you did when your baby started to sleep a little longer.

Make sure you are wearing a bra that offers the correct support. If you need to throw out your old one and go get fitted for a new one. You will be surprised how the correct support can alleviate a lot of pain.

Cold compresses on your breasts for twenty minutes every hour until the initial swelling goes down is a great relief. Gel packs, ice packs, frozen towels or frozen vegetables make good cold packs, make sure you do not place them directly on your skin.

You do not want to damage your skin and be in further pain use light material between the cold pack and your skin.

The old cold cabbage leaf also gives great relief. From the refrigerator or the freezer place the leaves on your breasts for around twenty minutes to assist with relief.

Lastly, you can head off to the doctor for some medication guidance to relieve the pain. While you are there the doctor can check your breasts for any infection or blocked ducts.

How Long Will It Take to Stop Making Breast Milk?

The average time for most mothers’ milk production should stop within 10 to 14 days. This can vary from person to person.

By Michelle D.

Meet Michelle, founder of Tip Top Sleep, a website dedicated to helping you achieve the best sleep possible. With over 50 years of combined experience in the realm of sleep, Michelle and her team provide easy-to-follow tips and strategies to help you feel better, function better, and live better through optimal sleep. Let us help you prioritize your sleep and discover the power of a good night's rest.