Cabbage Leaves And Breastfeeding – Does It Really Help?

Cabbage Leaves And Breastfeeding - Does It Really Help?

Cabbage Leaves And Breastfeeding

There are many myths and remedies which have been passed down through generations to treat various breastfeeding problems. Cabbage leaves and breastfeeding is a well known remedy you may have heard of.

The belief is cabbage leaves are able to treat engorgement, help reduce supply when there’s an oversupply, or to help dry up breastmilk when trying to suppress lactation, or when weaning.

But, is there any truth in this? What have mothers found and what does the research tell us? And, if cabbage leaves do work, how would you go about using them?

Read on to find out all you need to know about cabbage leaves and breastfeeding.

Cabbage Leaves For Engorgement – Does It Work?

You can usually prevent severe engorgement after your milk comes in by feeding your baby whenever she needs to be fed and by getting good positioning and attachment. However, if your breasts become painfully engorged, it’s a good idea to hire a lactation consultant to check how well your baby is attaching and feeding.

Provided these things are going well, engorgement typically resolves within a couple of days. But what about cabbage leaves, can they help relieve engorgement?

It’s unknown if cabbage leaves truly help relieve engorgement, but some mothers have found them helpful for this purpose. It’s not known if they may help due to a special factor found in the leaves or just because they are cold. Since one study showed a cream containing cabbage extract had no obvious effect at relieving engorgement, it’s more likely the latter.

One study found cold gel packs worked just as well as cabbage leaves at reducing engorgement. However, many mothers found the cabbage leaves more soothing than the cold gel packs.

Green (not red) cabbage leaves should supposedly be used and should be placed around your engorged breasts after feeds (as described below). Cabbage leaves should not be used if you have an allergy or are sensitive to cabbage. As soon as engorgement reduces, you should cease using the cabbage leaves, as some mothers feel they can reduce milk supply if used thereafter.

You can read more about engorgement here.

Cabbage Leaves For Weaning, Supressing Lactation Or An Oversupply

When using cabbage leaves for weaning, suppressing lactation or for an oversupply, the goal is the same – to try to reduce supply (in the case of an oversupply) or to dry up milk (in the case of weaning or suppressing lactation).

While there is no scientific evidence to show that cabbage leaves help to reduce supply or dry up milk, some mothers have found their use helpful for these reasons.

One reason mothers may find cabbage leaves helpful in such situations may be due to their possible effect at helping relieve engorgement, which is a common consequence of suppressing lactation or weaning.

How To Use Cabbage Leaves

If using cabbage leaves for the above reasons, here is a step by step guide:

  • Wash and dry the cabbage leaves and remove any large lumpy veins
  • Cool the leaves in the fridge
  • Place the leaves over your breasts inside your bra, avoiding your nipple area
  • Crush the leaves with a rolling pin if they don’t accommodate to the shape of your breast
  • Wrap the cabbage leaves around your breast and leave them on for about 20 minutes (some suggest leaving them on until they wilt)
  • Different sources suggest using cabbage leaves anywhere from 2-4 times per day, up to using them after all feeds
  • Stop using the leaves as soon as the engorgement or oversupply starts to reduce, or when your breasts stop feeling overfull in the case of weaning or supressing lactation

Now you know all the current, available information about cabbage leaves and breastfeeding. Hopefully you’ll find the tips helpful if you decide to use them at some point.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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