Breast engorgement is something many women have to go through. It is normal for your breasts to feel heavy or too full, and to feel warmer and grow in size after pregnancy. This happens because the milk flow comes in about 2 to 5 days post partum. You may feel a little uncomfortable and your breasts may feel a little warm when this happens for the first time- this is normal. You will soon get used to this, as this is what your normal fullness will be like. Breast engorgement happens when this fullness isn’t relieved through breastfeeding, so that your breasts become too full of milk and feel painful. When your breasts are engorged, your nipples can get painful and stiff, and latching on for your baby becomes difficult. To reduce this engorgement, many women use cabbage leaves as a natural treatment.
Read More: Breast Engorgement During Breastfeeding : Causes and Treatments
Cabbage leaves- Why?
Many breastfeeding women have held the view that placing refrigerated cabbage leaves on engorged breasts is helpful. Experts haven’t, as of yet, found a property within the cabbage leaf that helps to decrease the pain and swelling; and have postulated that the inflammation goes down because the cabbage acts as a cold compress. Studies show that if you’re breastfeeding and you put the refrigerated leaves of a cabbage plant directly on your breasts, it soothes the pain and can also help lessen breast pain and swelling. Women, therefore, use cabbage leaves to help reduce breast inflammation, relieve the pain and discomfort from breast engorgement which is caused by an overabundant supply of breast milk or weaning a baby from breastfeeding.
Read More: 5 ways to tackle oversupply of milk for new moms
How can cabbage leaves help with breastfeeding?
Using cabbage leaves helps because these have been seen to actually decrease excessive and painful engorgement. If you have tried other methods but haven’t been getting results, you might want to try out cabbage leaf therapy. This unconventional therapy is effective because the cabbage leaves absorb some of the fluid from the glands located inside the breast area, which reduces the fullness in the tissue. Many women experience some reduction in engorgement within 12 hours of starting it.
Here is what you need to do in order to utilize cabbage leaves properly for reduction of breast engorgement:
Things you will need-
- 1 large white cabbage
- A freezer to freeze the cabbage
- A loose fitting bra (preferably of cotton)
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A Step By Step Guide to Using Cabbage Leaves to Relieve Engorged Breasts
Before using cabbage leaves for engorged breasts, you want them to be cold. So, place a head of cabbage in the refrigerator, preferably in the freezer. You can use green or red cabbage, but red cabbage is more likely to leave stains or discoloration behind on your nursing bra and breastfeeding clothing, therefore white cabbage is most recommended.
Once the head of cabbage is chilled, remove it from the refrigerator. Peel off the outer layer of leaves, and throw them away. Then, pull off two of the inner leaves and place the head of cabbage back into the refrigerator, so that it will be chilled the next time you need it. This way, you can reuse the cabbage for the therapy. While tearing off the leaves, be careful not to tear them into tiny pieces, because you need them to be whole.
Wash the freshly removed leaves very thoroughly- you want to remove any dirt, mud and pesticide residue that may still be there on the leaves. Remove excess water from the leaves.
After you rinse the leaves, carefully cut out the stem from the center of each leaf without cutting it into two pieces. You want to keep it as one piece with a slit down the middle. Once you remove the stem and cut the slit, the leaves will be able to fit nicely over your breasts without covering your nipple.
Now place the leaves over your breasts without covering your nipples. Leaving your nipples and the surrounding areas uncovered ensures that they remain dry and intact for the next breastfeeding session.
Hold the cabbage leaves in place on your breasts like a cold compress. You can opt to wear a bra to keep the leaves in place for you. Choose a relatively loose fitting bra for this purpose, to allow breathability. If you’re worried about leaking, put a clean, dry breast pad over your nipple on top of the cabbage leaf to soak up the breast milk.
Keep the leaves pressed on your breasts for about fifteen to twenty minutes. After this, they will probably become warm and not be of much use anymore. It is important to note that keeping the leaves pressed after they have lost their coldness does not help.
Throw away these leaves and use fresh ones the next time. Repeat this process till you feel noticeable relief in your breasts.
Cabbage leaf therapy, although quite unusual, does help with relieving breast engorgement. What you must remember is that this only provides temporary relief. It will not cure breast engorgement. To get rid of engorgement, you must frequently empty your breastmilk through feeding your baby or pumping. Once your body learns to adjust to the needs of your baby, it will likely adjust its milk production, thus providing your relief from engorgement. If you are suffering from an overabundant supply of milk, you must try to pump the milk and store it for later use. In the meanwhile, you can use the cabbage leaf therapy to relieve yourself of the swelling and pain. It will be quite helpful when repeated over and over again till you feel better.
Read More: 11 Common Breastfeeding Challenges Faced by New Moms