lactation suppression : a nursing intervention from the Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) defined as facilitating the cessation of milk production and minimizing breast engorgement after giving birth.
After each of my four deliveries I have had different experiences with how I handled milk production.
- For my first daughter I exclusively breastfed with a nipple shield until 4 months when she started to lose weight, then we completely switched to formula.
- For my second daughter I exclusively breastfed until 4 months when she started to lose weight. This time I pumped a little bit to help my supply and to supplement with formula until 9 months before weaning from nursing.
- For the first surrogacy I exclusively pumped for 6 weeks. I was able to supply baby James with over 400 ounces in two weeks. Then I slowly weaned from pumping until I didn’t experience my breasts filling. All milk pumped during that time was donated to a family adopting a newborn baby.
- For the second surrogacy Amy and Al chose not to receive any milk from me. After some reflecting on my options I chose to suppress lactation.
In my previous post about the “4th trimester” I briefly touched on engorgement and lactation suppression. But like so many other topics I write about there is hardly any information out there. Of the information that is out there, it is mostly just suggestions without any reasoning behind the remedies. Hopefully this post will help others facing the choice of lactation suppression, whether that is due to loss, health issues, choosing formula, or weaning. It will be most dramatic for those that don’t nurse, pump, or hand express at all.
I began remedies shortly after birth as an attempt to stay ahead of engorgement. As I anticipated though, I still experienced pretty painful engorgement for a week. If I had a little more knowledge of how to handle it I might have had more relief… “woulda coulda shoulda”
Sports Bra – Fitted but not strangling tight, with bamboobies washable nursing pads
Sage Tincture – 1 full dropper per day chased by juice until breasts softened again
Peppermint Roller Ball – 10 ml with 30 drops of peppermint and fractionated coconut oil, rolled on breast tissue especially around outer edge and toward armpits. The Peppermint gave instant relief especially when I was on my fullest days, like a muscle rub.
Once my milk “came in” I also added cabbage leaves.
Cabbage Leaves – Rinsed, trimmed, and dried before storing in a gallon Ziploc in the fridge. Having the leaves chilled gave instant relief like a moldable ice pack.
Most importantly of all, No Nipple Stimulation! I did not want these out of the gate work horses to get a message to feed all the hungry babies.
I didn’t have guidance on how to apply the peppermint and cabbage, or how frequently and I was so out of it that I didn’t think to search for information either. About half way through the week of engorgement I asked my doula if the cabbage was even helpful because I was daydreaming about a fix-it-all medication approach. Her instructions were to apply the leaves to cover as much breast tissue as possible and to leave them in place until they wilted. That was my first mistake, I wasn’t leaving them in place long enough. She also said to keep applying throughout the day while I was experiencing painfully full breasts. Mistake number two, I had only applied my “boob salad” once daily for the first few days of engorgement. I also asked about increasing the sage tincture to help things move along faster, but she recommended applying the peppermint more frequently instead. That part sounded great to me because sage is very bitter.
For the second half of the week I increased the frequency of applying peppermint and cabbage leaves, thankfully the engorgement started to ease up and after a week I was able to wear a regular bra again without discomfort.
So, do any of those home remedies actually work? If they have been proven to work, how exactly?
Well, it is a little more difficult to find reasons behind some of these remedies aside from the fact that they have worked for thousands of women for a very long time. I did find that Sage and Peppermint are considered Antigalactagogues which are herbs, foods, or medications that can reduce the milk supply and for lessening engorgement. (Antigalactagogues are sometimes recommended to prevent or relieve postpartum mastitis inflammation of the breast after delivery of the baby). But it doesn’t say why they are so effective at reducing milk supply.
Cabbage Leaves for Engorgement
This is the most comprehensive information I could find about cabbage. While reading this it definitely makes me think that if I had been applying the leaves more frequently that I may have been able to reduce the painful period more.
The common green cabbage (Brassica capitata) is used for engorgement therapy. Cabbage is known to contain sinigrin (allylisothiocyanate) rapine, mustard oil, magnesium, oxylate and sulphur heterosides. Herbalists believe that cabbage has both antibiotic and anti irritant properties. It is theorized that this natural mixture of ingredients helps decrease tissue congestion by dilating (opening) local capillaries (small blood vessels) improving the blood flow in the area. Cabbage compresses should be used with other engorgement treatment routines
Hopefully by gathering some of this information into one post along with my personal experience it will help someone else making the same internet searches I have.