Do cabbage leaves prevent breast engorgement? A randomized, controlled study.
Between March 1991 and March 192 in South Africa, a case control study of 120 mothers who delivered at the Park Lane Clinic in Johannesburg was conducted to determine the effect of applying raw cabbage leaves (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata) on their breasts. Specifically, the researchers were concerned about the mothers' perceptions of breast engorgement and of breast feeding practices. Before raw cabbage leaf application, both groups of mothers considered their breasts to be engorged (54% for cases and 52% for controls). Fewer mothers reported breast engorgement after the 1st through 3rd raw cabbage leaf applications, but the difference was not significant. Mothers who applied raw cabbage leaves were more likely to be exclusively breast feeding at 6 weeks than control mothers (76% vs. 58%; odds ratio = 2.3; p = 0.09). They were less likely to have discontinued breast feeding before 8 days than control mothers (8.9% vs. 24%; p = .09). Mothers who used raw cabbage leaves to control breast engorgement breast fed significantly longer than did those who did not use raw cabbage leaves (36 days vs. 30 days; p = .04). The researchers could not exclude the possibility of cabbage leaves having a direct effect on breast engorgement and breast feeding success, but they believed that the active involvement of the mothers in something that they perceived to help breast feeding may have raised their self-confidence and self-esteem, resulting in breast feeding success.