Congratulations! If you are reading this article it is likely that you just had a baby or maybe you are expecting one. Either way, congratulations! This is a very exciting time. However, it brings with it a brand new wheel house of skills that you need to learn. One being breastfeeding. As a lactation counsellor, I support and encourage breastfeeding but I am not naive about the fact that breastfeeding comes with its own set of challenges. One challenge you may be faced with while breastfeeding is engorgement. While engorgement can be very painful there are ways that we can lessen inflammation and pain and one of those ways is with, of all things, cabbage.


What is Engorgement?


Breast engorgement is something which can occur in the first few days or weeks after breastfeeding has started. After the birth of your baby and the delivery of the placenta your body receives a signal to increase prolactin levels. Prolactin is the hormone that helps your breasts make milk. Every time you breastfeed or use your breast pump prolactin is released. In the early days after delivery you are encouraged to breastfeed or pump frequently to enable your milk production. Your body will usually begin making milk between day 2-8 postpartum. Sometimes during this period your breasts can become engorged. Engorgement is when your breasts fill with milk, blood and other fluid. If this happens your breasts may increase in size, they may feel heavier and harder, they may be warm or tender, they may appear red, and your nipples may become flattened making it difficult for your baby to get a proper latch. It is also possible to develop a low-grade fever. The good news is that engorgement is usually temporary and there are ways to treat it. As Mama Coaches we are here to provide support to mamas who are breastfeeding. If you are struggling with engorgement, reach out to a Mama Coach in your area.


How can Cabbage Help with Engorgement?


While there are many ways to treat engorgement, cabbage can offer you some pain relief and can decrease inflammation. There is some evidence to show that cabbage absorbs excess fluid in the breasts which can decrease fullness in the breast tissue. Furthermore, the coolness of the cabbage leaves when applied, can help with inflammation and aid in relieving pain.

What do you need?


To use cabbage for the purposes of decreasing engorgement you will need the following materials:


  1. One head of white leaved cabbage
  2. A clean wash cloth for washing your breasts prior to breastfeeding
  3. A freezer
  4. A kitchen tool, like a rolling pin, to crush cabbage leaves


Steps for using Cabbage for Engorgement


After you have collected all of your necessary materials;


  1. Strip and wash the head of cabbage of 2-4 leaves
  2. Crush veins in the cabbage leaves and place in the freezer
  3. When it is time to feed your baby, wash your hands and complete feeding
  4. After you are done feeding, remove cabbage from the freezer and place in a loosely fitting or comfortable bra, directly against skin.
  5. Leave on breast for no longer than 20 minutes,
  6. Once the 20 minutes is up, wash breasts with a clean wash cloth.

You may repeat this 2-3 times per day but do not exceed 3 times per day.


Things to Remember


If you decide you would like to use cabbage therapy as a way to help with engorgement there are a few things you should know. Firstly, if you are experiencing cracked, bleeding or blistered nipples you should avoid using cabbage for engorgement. This treatment is also not recommended for any individual with a cabbage or sulfa allergy. If you feel as though the engorgement has not improved or has worsened you should seek out help from your primary health care provider. If you develop a fever following engorgement this can be a sign of infection and again, you should contact your primary health care provider.

As a Mama Coach I am here to assist and support you on your breastfeeding journey. If you are experiencing engorgement or need breastfeeding support, contact a Mama Coach near you.

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