This post is part of our complete guide on treating engorgement and clogged ducts. Refer back to the guide if you want a complete list of topics covered, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment. If you're specifically interested in understanding how long your breasts will remain engorged once you've stopped breastfeeding, please read on!
How long does it take for engorgement to go away if you are not breastfeeding?
Sometimes moms get engorged breasts or plugged ducts when weaning or when they stop breastfeeding for a few days or even a few hours. It’s normal: your body doesn’t know you’ve decided to stop breastfeeding and it still sends milk to your breasts. If the milk doesn’t go out, your breasts get engorged. You need to allow time for your body to understand that there is no point sending milk to your breasts anymore. This typically takes a week to ten days. You should allow for the same time frame if you’ve decided not to breastfeed at all after giving birth.
If you stop breastfeeding suddenly or if you’ve decided to never breastfeed at all, you might not only be engorged but things might even degenerate into full blown mastitis, an inflammation of the breast that needs to be treated by a physician. In that case you’re faced with quite a few days of very painful breasts.
If at all an option it’s never a good idea to suddenly stop breastfeeding entirely. In an ideal world you should stop breastfeeding progressively to avoid engorgement or plugged duct issues. Your body needs to learn bit by bit to send less and less milk to your breasts. A way to do it could be to stop breastfeeding in 4 steps: breastfeed one fourth less than usual for a few days until your body adapts and so on and so forth until you’ve stopped breastfeeding entirely. This way your body will never send so much milk to your breasts that they’ll get completely congested and engorged.
So to summarize, how long does it take for engorgement to go away if you are not breastfeeding?
- If you stop breastfeeding suddenly or never breastfeed at all, it takes a week to ten days for your body to stop sending milk to your breasts. Your breasts can be engorged during that whole time-span, although the issue will likely be worse during the first few days.
- A sudden end to your breastfeeding might also lead to full-blown mastitis, a very painful inflammation of the breasts that needs to be treated by a doctor.
- If at all an option, chose to progressively decrease your breastfeeding instead of stopping suddenly. This way you let your body adapt bit by bit and you’ll likely avoid engorgement.