If you’ve been pregnant even for a few weeks, you’ve probably heard hundreds of old wives tales relating to pregnancy and birth. Maybe you’ve heard that the color of your urine will show you the sex of your baby, or that your belly’s position can indicate whether or not you’re having a boy. You’ve probably even gotten outdated advice from your own mother about what to eat and what to avoid. People who share such advice mean well, but they only add to the thousands of facts already spinning through your head about how to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. Besides, most folklore about pregnancy is entirely untrue. However, there is one rather strange treatment during breastfeeding that is scientifically proven. Cabbage can help relieve pain associated with milk-buildup in new moms who are not breastfeeding, and it can even help slow production down.

If you’ve decided not to breastfeed, it might take a while for your body to get the memo. Even before you go into labor, your breasts will begin preparing and producing milk to feed your baby as soon as he or she arrives. Once you’ve delivered, it could take ten days for your breasts to finally stop producing milk. In the meantime, your breasts might become engorged and painful as milk builds up and makes them heavy. It’s never a good idea to relieve the pressure by squeezing milk out, because that will only tell your breasts to produce more for the next feeding.

Cold presses will help with the pain, and you can talk to your doctor about safe pain medications to take until the production finally subsides. And, according to multiple studies, it’s perfectly safe to try pressing cold cabbage leaves to your breasts to decrease production and ease pain. It sounds strange, but it’s one of the few old wives’ tales that actually works in a laboratory setting.

Making the choice not to breastfeed is fine, but it will take a few days for your body to realize that it can stop producing milk. You’ll probably be seeking any type of pain relief you can get, so telling your husband to stop at the store for cabbage won’t seem so outrageous when every movement sends you into pain. Cabbage has proven to be safe and effective, so there’s no harm in giving it a try if you find yourself in this situation.

Source: Smriti Arora et al: A Comparison of Cabbage Leaves vs. Hot and Cold Compresses in the Treatment of Breast Engorgement. Indian Journal of Community Medicine Volume 33 Issue 3 pp. 160-162 July 2008

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