You may be at the point where you’ll try whatever is available for some relief. It’s time to try Cabbage Leaves.

An original article for by Elizabeth Ballering, RN, SNM II at Oregon Health Sciences University

Your milk has come in and boy do you know it! Perhaps your breasts are so hard and tender your baby can’t latch to nurse. Perhaps expressing by hand or pump is not working either. You may be at the point where you’ll try whatever is available for some relief. It’s time to try Cabbage Leaves. The theory is that there is some chemical in cabbage leaves that reduces milk supply. Research is scant in this area and it isn’t conclusive that cabbage leaves are a miracle cure for engorgement. However there are no harmful effects if used correctly and many women have found them to be very helpful. Cabbage leaves, with the help of your infant nursing frequently (every 2-3 hours), might be the answer for you.

Uses for Cabbage Leaves

  • Local engorgement for specific areas (for example those horrible armpit lumps without other areas of engorgement)
  • Milk engorgement
  • Venous engorgement
  • Suppression of lactation for any reason

How to use Cabbage Leaves

  • Sources state that green, ordinary (not Japanese, etc.) cabbage is preferable.
  • Do not use cabbage leaves if you have an allergy or sensitivity to cabbage (or broccoli, cauliflower or brussell sprouts for that matter). If a rash appears, immediately discontinue using cabbage leaves and call your health care provider.
  • Be warned – there might be a strong odor of cooked cabbage leaves!
  • Wash the leaves thoroughly.
  • The veins can be crushed or removed to allow them to be more form fitting to the breast.
  • They can be chilled in the refrigerator as some feel they are more soothing cold,but it is not necessary.
  • Place in a bra, wrapped around the breast with the nipple exposed.
  • Leave on for 2 hours or until wilted and change to fresh leaves if you need to.
  • Check to see how your breasts are responding with each change and stop using the leaves once engorgement is reduced-prolonged use after engorgement has subsided carries the risk of suppressing your milk production.


Engorgement: What it is, how to prevent it and how to treat it.. http// Retrieved from the WWW March 1, 2001.

Nikodem, V.C., Danziger, D., Gebka, N., Gulmezoglu, A.M., and Hofmeyr, G.J. (1993). Do cabbage leaves prevent breast engorgement? A randomized, controlled study. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care and Education 20(2), pp. 61-64.

Roberts, K.L. (1995). A comparison of chilled cabbage leaves and chilled gelpaks in reducing breast engorgement. Journal of Human Lactation 11(1), pp. 17-20.

Roberts, K.L., Reiter, M., and Schuster, D. (1995). A comparison of chilled and room temperature cabbage leaves in treating breast engorgement. Journal of Human Lactation 11(3), pp. 191-194.

Rosier W (1988). Cool cabbage compresses. Breastfeeding Review 12, pp. 28-31.

Smith, M.K. (2000) New perspectives on engorgement. LEAVEN, 35(6), pp. 134-36. Retrieved from the WWW March1, 2001.

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