what is in cabbage leaves that suppresses milk production?


now in my Maternal - Newborn textbook, it is explaining that "women are advised to boil the cabbage slightly until the leaves are softened"

then they are peeled, placed in the refrigerator, and the woman is to apply the cabbage leaves to her breast by placing them within her bra. The leaves should be changed as they wilt. A chemical excreted by the cabbage is effective in suppressing milk production.

What is the chemical excreted by the cabbage?


JeanettePNP, MSN, RN, NP

1 Article; 1,863 Posts

Specializes in Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergy. Has 8 years experience.

I don't know how it works, but I can attest that it does work. I had such bad engorgement with my firstborn that he couldn't latch on. I applied a raw cabbage leaf and within a few hours my breasts were soft.


1 Article; 6,681 Posts

Has 17 years experience.

We use this practice in the NICU where I work, but a Google search ('cabbage breast milk' as the search terms) seems to show that the mechanism is unknown and that the effectiveness hasn't really been backed up by too many studies.


4 Articles; 10,428 Posts

There are some cultures that use cabbage leave to decrease inflamation; sometimes people put them on their head to relieve a headache and/or reduce fever. I'll try to find a reference.

I wonder if the leaf acts like a cool compress and decreases inflamation in the breast?



The cool compress alone doesn't come close to how effective the cooled cabbage leaf is. If it were merely the cooling property, then anything cooled and applied to the breast would work. As it stands, though, La Leche League routinely recommends this, as do private lactation consultants, with great success.

By the way, the leaves don't have to be boiled: a fresh leaf, shaped and sized appropriately, is what's usually recommended, kept inside the woman's bra until wilted.

Why it works? Don't know. Does it work? Yes :)

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

17 Articles; 5,259 Posts

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.

My patients are amazed when I tell them about cabbage leaves. They look at me like I'm crazy....until they try it. We are so used to popping a pill for everything....


226 Posts

Several years ago I worked as an IBCLC Certified Lactation Consultant and used raw cabbage leaves with great success. I understood that the cabbage had antiflammatory properties anf the mama's swore by it.

When my kids had their wisdom teeth extracted, I decided to see if the cabbage leaves worked for them and to our delight after keeping tha cabbage on their jaws for a few hrs after the procedure, there was no swelling and only minor discomfort. Later when my son had to have a toenail removed, we again used the cabbage with great success.

I am a believer!


1,842 Posts

Has 20 years experience.

thanks for all these useful items about using cabbage leaves

it sounds more useful than I was aware


435 Posts

I remember being told in nursing school that the juice in raw cabbage leaves had some antiinflammatory properties and that if someone sprained their ankle, for example, to crack the veins in a cabbage leaf and apply to reduce swelling. Then in my OB class, they also told us they can be used on the breasts of someone with engorgement. Later, when I worked Mother/Baby at a hospital...you guessed it...we kept fresh cabbage in the refrigerator for nursing mothers to use on their breasts.

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