You go through nine (actually ten) months of pregnancy thinking that delivery is the end of the abuse for your body. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not. If you decide to breastfeed, you’ve got the discomfort of learning to nurse your baby. If you choose not to breastfeed, you’ve got to go through the painful process of suppressing lactation. It’s no walk in the park.
I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, but I know it’s not for everyone. I breastfed all my children, but this latest pregnancy was different. This time I was a surrogate. I wish that shipping my breast milk was an option, but it just isn’t. I toyed with the idea of donating, but decided that I wanted to get back to feeling like me again. Me doesn’t have enough time in a day to stop and pump throughout the day. I needed to let my milk supply dry up and this was uncharted territory for me. I had always gradually weaned.
For the first few days I thought maybe I had dodged the lactation bullet. There was no milk in sight. Then came day 5 postpartum. I woke up that morning feeling like I had been kicked in the chest by a horse (yes, it’s happened to me and I can confirm the accuracy of this description). Being already well-endowed, I had the appearance of a Hollywood starlet who had a botched boob job. Here I was just getting back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe and I had to go back to maternity wear to accommodate my chest.
Where do cabbage leaves fit in here?
Because I prefer natural options over popping a pill, I googled natural ways of suppressing lactation. The most common solution suggested was inserting cabbage leaves in your bra. Maybe I’m not so green after all, since that seemed to cross the line of weird for me. Unfortunately the rest of the advice consisted of no touching, no warm showers, no pumping… Well, that wasn’t doing me any good at all. By day 6 postpartum, I was nearly in tears. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even walk comfortably. Three bras stacked on one another was not supporting enough and even cause a side effect – mastitis. Do you know what they suggest for mastitis? Gentle massage of the breast, warm showers, and pumping. All the things I was trying not to do to suppress lactation.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
By the end of day 7, I was willing to be as green as I needed to be to end my misery. I went out to the local health food store and got the greenest green cabbage I could find. I brought it home and popped it in the fridge as suggested online. An hour later, I pulled the outer leaves off the cabbage and wrapped them around my deformed Hollywood breasts (yeah, it’s getting real here today people). Oh beautiful relief!!! It cooled immediately and soothed wonderfully. After an hour, I felt much better.
I did express some milk from the area where I was getting the mastitis infection. Don’t believe the hype online. You can express enough milk to be comfortable and still suppress lactation. The key is to only do it when absolutely necessary and only enough to be comfortable. Let’s be honest, it’s not like you aren’t got to spring leaks from time to time anyways. It might as well be from the area that is hurting.
After four days of expressing in the area I was infected and applying cabbage leaves on and off throughout the day, my normal mommy boobs were back. I’m two weeks postpartum now and still have to wear my reusable nursing pads, but there is no pain or discomfort.
How do cabbage leaves help suppress lactation?
Cabbage leaves have antibiotic and anti-irritant properties. These properties improve blood flow to the breasts, allowing the body to reabsorb the milk trapped in the breast. Cabbage leaves may also have drawing abilities, which is why people use the leaves to absorb trapped fluids. Are you concerned that this is just another new-age hippie thing? Ask your grandmother what was recommended to her generation. Cabbage leaf treatment for suppressing lactation has been around for eons. Research has even been done about it. I’m telling you, it really works.
To use this treatment, go to your grocery and pick out a head of green cabbage (red doesn’t work as well and will stain clothes). Remove the core of the cabbage and peel the leaves from the outside of the cabbage. Put the greenest leaves in the fridge to cool. The white leaves on the inside are not as effective, so feel free to eat them, compost them, or give them to your chickens as a nice treat. Once chilled, pull out a few leaves, wash them well, and crush the veins with a rolling pin or the heel of your hand. Drape the crushed leaves over the breast and even up to the armpit if you are feeling swelling in that area. Leave the leaves in place for up to an hour.
A few words of warning: Your children will give you odd looks when you exit the bathroom carrying a cabbage. Your husband may have less-than-funny jokes about your situation. If you forget to remove the leaves within an hour or it’s really hot outside, you will smell like St. Patrick’s Day dinner. The relief is worth all of this.
Miracle Cabbage Leaves
Maybe you don’t have breasts or you’re not currently suppressing lactation. Cabbage leaves may still be a lifesaver for you. Cabbage leaves have been used to treat the swelling associated with sprains, arthritis, and even post-surgical swelling. Cabbage leaves are often used for bruises as well. I’m putting it to the test where I bruised my knee the other day (why do my children feel the need to leave chairs pulled out in the kitchen after dark?) So far the bruise is looking and feeling better. Another big thumbs up for cabbage from me!