Cabbage leaves help reduce painful swelling
Breastfeeding mothers typically see their breasts get bigger. It makes sense, as we know they are producing a milk supply that the baby can live on exclusively for several months. But making all this milk can be painful for the mother. Many women suffer breast engorgement, a common condition where the breasts overfill with milk.
It’s not only uncomfortable but also painful.
“It would hurt me so bad that sometimes I didn’t want to feed my daughter,” said a mother who asked not to be named. “Just the thought of her touching my already sore breasts would almost make me cry.”
But a simple solution of placing cabbage leaves around the breast works like magic for most women, according to Melony Kendell of La Leche League.
Ms Kendell, a certified leader with the local chapter, said it’s advice she and other members commonly give to mothers experiencing problems with engorgement.
“La Leche League leaders often tell moms that if their breasts become engorged that placing a cold green cabbage leaf on them for a few hours has been known to help reduce painful swelling,” she said.
“Many mothers are interested in alternative therapies and this is something that is non-invasive and easy to obtain.”
No-one is sure exactly why the cabbage leaves work although one hypothesis is that the sulphur in the amino acid methionine present in cabbage acts as an antibiotic and anti-irritant which in turn draws an extra flow of blood to the area.
The increased blood flow causes blood capillaries to dilate, reducing inflammation and allowing milk to flow more freely.
Women with painful engorged breasts are advised to place clean raw cabbage leaves in their bras cradling their breasts but not over their nipples.
The leaves can be refrigerated beforehand if the woman finds the cool leaves more soothing.
The leaves should be worn only for a few hours and then removed.
“Cabbage leaves should be used just when moms are having a problem,” said Ms Kendell. “It is not really used as a preventative measure but as a treatment.”
Women seeking this relief should use leaves of the common green cabbage and not the fancy Japanese or purple varieties. If it’s more comfortable, the bulky vein of the cabbage can be removed.
Women allergic to cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower are advised not to use this technique for relief. Women should also not repeat the technique if it affords no pain relief.
According to Ms Kendell, cabbage has been used in Europe for generations to not only ease the pain associated with breast engorgement but also to reduce swelling of other parts of the body.