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Breastfeeding Breastfeeding Management Information

Treatments for Problems

Cabbage leaves for engorgement

Severe engorgement about the third or fourth day after the baby is born can usually be prevented by getting the baby latched on well and drinking well from the very beginning. (See Breastfeeding-Starting Out Right and The Importance of Skin to Skin Contact, as well as Protocol to Increase Breastmilk Intake by the Baby. See also Index of Breastfeeding Movies for videos to help use the Protocol). If you do become engorged, please understand that engorgement diminishes within 1 or 2 days even without any treatment. Continue to breastfeed the baby, making sure he gets on well and nurses well. However, if you should get engorged to the point of severe discomfort or if the baby is not able to take the breast, cabbage leaves seem to help decrease the engorgement more rapidly than ice packs or other treatments. If you are unable to get the baby latched on, start cabbage leaves, start expressing your milk and give the expressed milk to the baby by spoon, cup, finger feeding or eyedropper and get help quickly.

  1. Use green cabbage.
  2. Crush the cabbage leaves with a rolling pin if the leaves do not accommodate to the shape of your breast.
  3. Wrap the cabbage leaves around the breast and leave on for about 20 minutes. Twice daily is enough. It is usual to use the cabbage leaf treatment two or three times or less. Some will say to use the cabbage leaves after each feeding and leave them on until they wilt. Others are concerned that such frequent use will decrease the milk supply.
  4. Stop using as soon as engorgement is beginning to diminish and you are becoming more comfortable.
  5. You can use acetaminophen (Tylenol(tm), others) with or without codeine, ibuprofen, or other medication for pain relief. As with almost all medications, there is no reason to stop breastfeeding when taking analgesics.
  6. Ice packs also can be helpful.
  7. If you are one of the women who gets a large lump in the armpit about 3 or 4 days after the baby’s birth, you can use cabbage leaves in that area as well.

Handout #24. Miscellaneous treatments. January 2005.
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC © 2005.

This handout may be copied and distributed without further permission, on the condition that it is not used in any context in which the WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes is violated.

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© 2002-2017 Dr. Lenore Goldfarb, PhD, CCC, IBCLC, ALC and contributing authors to AskLenore.info. All rights reserved.


Disclaimer: All material provided in asklenore.info is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your physician regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation.

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