October 7, 2013
Back when wet nurses were still a thing, those who hired wet nurses looked for women who had recently lost a baby or whose infant had died in childbirth. While their hearts felt the loss, their breasts did not. And for me, Madge and Dorcas had been ready to go for months.
And now for a biology lesson for those of you who may need it. It takes a few days before your milk comes in. So even if there’s no baby, there’s still milk. And breastfeeding works on a positive feedback loop. The more you nurse, the more milk you create. That’s why a woman whose child was stillborn was the ideal wet nurse candidate; she was producing milk but had no infant to feed.
But if you’re trying to stop this process… Well, there are a couple of things you can do. You can take Sudafed. But since my blood pressure was still elevated, we wanted to avoid that. (Plus Sudafed will dry up everything in your head at the same time. And since I wasn’t in need of an antihistamine, that sounded rather unpleasant.) Or there’s always good, old-fashioned green cabbage leaves.
That’s right. Green cabbage leaves. Fresh from the fridge. Applied externally. Green cabbage leaves are actually recommended to soothe discomfort for nursing mothers, too. Just don’t leave them on for too long because then your milk will start to dry up. But since that was the goal in my case, my mom and I just kept putting fresh leaves on when the old ones had wilted.
Yes, I said wilted. Over the course of four days, I wilted four heads of cabbage. With my boobs. Some girls stuff their bras with tissues; I stuffed mine with cabbage.
And trying to get the cabbage leaves tucked into my bra was particularly awkward. At first. And then I remembered I was wearing a nursing bra… But it was still a two-person job. My mom would hold the leaves in place while I rehooked the cup.
And, yes, the leaves were cold and stiff, but they felt so good. And they worked. Within three weeks, I was back into my pre-pregnancy bras.
There is one drawback, though. I used to like cabbage. It’s particularly lovely to wrap a wedge of cabbage in foil and put it on the grill. Or at least it used to be. And I never minded the smell of cabbage. Sure, it has a distinct aroma, but it wasn’t so bad. Well, it wasn’t until I started to smell that way. And then there was the thought that I might leak… Breast milk and green cabbage. It will be a good long while before I want cole slaw again. My mom concurs.