Why Do Cabbage Leaves Dry Up Milk: Breastfeeding Insights



Why Do Cabbage Leaves Dry Up Milk

Cabbage leaves are thought to help dry up milk supply due to their high sulphur content. Applying chilled cabbage leaves can lead to engorgement relief and milk decrease.

Cabbage leaves have long been used as a folk remedy for various ailments, including engorged breasts in breastfeeding women. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these leaves, when chilled and applied directly to the skin, can offer relief from breast engorgement and assist in drying up milk supply.

The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is believed that certain compounds in the leaves may help to reduce tissue swelling and encourage the slowing of milk production. This method is often recommended by midwives and lactation consultants as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical methods for managing discomfort during weaning or when breast milk production needs to be stopped for medical reasons. It’s important to note that while many find this remedy helpful, anyone considering it should first consult with a healthcare provider.

Understanding Lactation and Milk Production

Embarking on a journey through the complex system of lactation and milk production offers a fascinating glimpse into the wonders of human biology. A mother’s body is finely tuned to provide nourishment to her newborn, but there are moments when lactation may need to be halted, such as when a mother decides to wean or when circumstances prevent continued breastfeeding. Interestingly, remedies like cabbage leaves have been historically used to aid this process. To fully grasp this natural phenomenon, let’s delve into the intricacies of milk production and how it can be influenced.

The Basics of Breast Milk Supply

The initiation of breast milk supply is nothing short of astonishing. It’s a perfect blend of hormonal cues and physical demand. Oxytocin and prolactin, two key hormones, play pivotal roles in this dance of supply and demand. Supply adjusts to meet the needs of the baby, driven by the frequency and effectiveness of nursing. The more a baby latches and feeds, the more signals are sent to the mother’s body to produce milk—a prime example of the body’s responsiveness to external stimulus.

Factors Influencing Lactation

  • Maternal health: The well-being of the mother can significantly affect lactation. From dietary habits to stress levels, each factor can contribute to the quality and quantity of breast milk.
  • Baby’s feeding patterns: Irregular or infrequent feeding can disrupt the natural rhythm, causing a potential dip in milk production.
  • Hormonal balance: Any imbalance in lactation-related hormones may impact milk supply.

The Physiology of Milk Production and Cessation

Cessation of milk production, known as lactation suppression, is a process naturally deployed when a baby is weaned. This intricate mechanism can also be prompted by other methods, such as the application of cabbage leaves. Why cabbage leaves? They are believed to carry both anti-inflammatory properties and isothiocyanates, chemical compounds that can help to reduce the production of breast milk when placed over the skin. The breast responds to the lack of stimulation (i.e., reduced feeding or expression) and the presence of these compounds by scaling down milk production, eventually ceasing it altogether.

Traditional Remedies for Breast Engorgement

Traditional Remedies for Breast Engorgement have been passed down through the ages. Engorgement occurs when the breasts become overly full with milk, leading to discomfort and sometimes pain. This can happen when a mother’s milk comes in, when she weans her baby, or if she misses several feedings. To alleviate the discomfort, many women have turned to natural remedies. Among these, the application of cabbage leaves is one of the most discussed and fascinating practices with roots in history.

Historical Use of Cabbage Leaves

The historical use of cabbage leaves dates to centuries ago. Mothers who have faced the challenges of breast engorgement have often been advised to place chilled cabbage leaves directly onto their breasts. But why cabbage? Cabbage is believed to have compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Moreover, the coldness of the leaves also contribute to soothing engorged breasts and can act as a natural cold compress.

Other Folk Remedies for Managing Engorgement

Beyond cabbage leaves, several other folk remedies have been noted for their ability to manage breast engorgement. These include:

  • Warm compresses before nursing to help milk flow
  • Cool compresses or ice packs after nursing to reduce swelling
  • Herbal remedies such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, and fennel seeds
  • Gentle breast massages to encourage milk movement

Each method aims to provide relief, and many mothers report effectiveness from these time-tested solutions.

Modern Approaches to Deal with Excess Lactation

Today’s understanding of breastfeeding has blended the wisdom of the past with scientific advancements. Modern approaches to deal with excess lactation include medical and therapeutic options:

MedicationsPrescribed to safely decrease milk supplyQuick and monitored by healthcare professionals
Manual ExpressionGentle hand expression of milk to relieve pressureControlled milk release; convenient
Supportive BraOffering proper support without excessive pressureComfort and reduction in milk flow

Coupled with professional guidance, these modalities provide effective ways to manage and treat breast engorgement in our modern era.

Cabbage Leaves as a Natural Treatment

Engorgement and excess milk can cause significant discomfort for breastfeeding mothers. One natural remedy that has been passed down through generations is the use of cabbage leaves. Not just a staple in the kitchen, cabbage holds a place in the natural healing realm for its remarkable properties when it comes to managing milk supply and soothing pain and swelling. This section delves into why cabbage leaves are effective and how they can be used to alleviate discomfort by drying up breast milk.

Properties of Cabbage Leaves

Cabbage leaves boast a number of qualities that make them excellent for treating engorged breasts. Their high water content offers a cooling effect, while the compound sinigrin in cabbages is believed to help reduce tissue congestion. Additionally, the leaves are shaped in a way that molds well to the breast, providing maximum contact with the affected area, which is crucial for the relief of discomfort.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling and tenderness.
  • Sinigrin in the leaves may contribute to reducing milk flow.
  • Cooling effect helps soothe engorged breasts and alleviate pain.
  • Practical and comfortable to wear due to their large and flexible leaves.

How Cabbage Leaves Are Used to Dry Up Milk

To harness the benefits of cabbage leaves for drying up milk, mothers can follow these easy steps:

  1. Chill a few large cabbage leaves in the refrigerator.
  2. Wash the leaves to ensure they are clean and free from chemicals and pesticides.
  3. Cut out the hard stem to prevent discomfort against the skin.
  4. Place the cleaned and chilled leaves onto the breasts such that they cover the engorged area completely.
  5. Wear a supportive bra to keep the leaves in place and change the leaves every two hours or once they become wilted.

Consistent application is key for the leaves to effectively help in the drying-up process. The cold sensation initially helps soothe the swelling, while the purported active ingredients may aid in reducing the actual milk production with sustained use.

Scientific Explanations for the Efficacy of Cabbage Leaves

While anecdotal evidence abounds regarding the effectiveness of cabbage leaves, science provides insight into how these leaves may assist in drying up milk. The leaves’ anti-inflammatory properties play a critical role in reducing breast tenderness and engorgement pain. Studies suggest that the isothiocyanates found in cabbage, notably in sinigrin, can assist in decreasing tissue congestion by adjusting blood flow and capillary action in the engorged area.

Another theory suggests that a certain compound in cabbage leaves may interact with the hormone prolactin, which regulates milk production, thus helping to decrease milk supply when applied consistently. Despite ongoing research into the exact mechanisms, the combination of the leaves’ properties and their application methods makes them a practical, natural option for mothers seeking relief from engorgement and oversupply.

In essence, cabbage leaves serve as a simple, natural aid for mothers looking to alleviate discomfort from engorgement or wean off breastfeeding by helping to dry up milk supply in a gentle manner. Their unique properties and the anecdotal success stories offer an appealing option for those preferring non-medical methods of treatment.

Also learn: How to Use Cabbage for Joint Pain

Practical Considerations and Precautions

Applying cabbage leaves to ease discomfort and dry up milk supply is a home remedy familiar to many breastfeeding mothers. While this method might seem straightforward, considering practical matters ensures safety and effectiveness. Before embarking on this traditional practice, understand the correct usage, potential side effects, and situations warranting professional guidance. Knowledge empowers mothers to make informed decisions about their health.

Steps to Using Cabbage Leaves Safely

For new mothers looking to reduce milk supply safely using cabbage leaves, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right cabbage: Green cabbage is typically recommended for its high moisture content.
  2. Prepare the leaves: Wash them thoroughly to remove pesticides and dirt. Remove the hard stem to help the leaf conform to the shape of the breast.
  3. Cool the leaves: Place them in a refrigerator. The cooling effect helps soothe inflammation and engorgement.
  4. Apply with care: Place a chilled leaf on each breast, avoiding the nipple area to reduce irritation. Wear a supportive bra to keep the leaves in place.
  5. Timing: Leave the leaves on for up to 20 minutes or until they become wilted. Repeat as needed, ensuring a break between applications to avoid overuse.

Potential Side Effects and How to Minimize Them

Like any home remedy, the use of cabbage leaves comes with potential side effects worth noting:

  • Skin irritation: Some individuals may experience skin reactions. To minimize this risk, limit contact time and ensure leaves are clean.
  • Over-drying: Overuse may lead to underproduction of milk. Monitor your body’s response and adapt the frequency of application accordingly.
  • Odor: Cabbage can have a strong smell, which some may find unpleasant. Using fresh leaves and changing them often can help reduce odor.

When to Seek Professional Medical Advice

Contact a healthcare professional in the following circumstances:

  • Persistent Pain: If discomfort or engorgement does not improve.
  • Infection Symptoms: Signs such as fever, redness, or streaking on the breasts may indicate mastitis and require medical attention.
  • Lactation Concerns: Consulting a lactation expert or doctor is advisable if you experience significant challenges with breastfeeding or milk supply.


Wrapping up our discussion on cabbage leaves and their milk-drying properties, it’s clear that folk remedies often hold a kernel of truth. These green wonders support breastfeeding mothers in easing engorgement discomfort through simple, natural means. Remember, always consult a healthcare provider to pair safe practices with traditional wisdom for the best outcomes.

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