What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is an herb found in Southern Europe and Asia; fenugreek is a member of the pea family; its seed has been used to increase milk supply for centuries. Fenugreek is also used as food, condiment, in baked goods, in medicine, as a dye and as a livestock feed and land conservation and reclamation.
How fenugreek lactation works?
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) is the most popular herb used to increase milk supply. It has been used for centuries and is reported as an excellent galactagogue for some mothers. There were few studies done that produced mixed results [Swafford 2000, Reeder 2011, Turkyılmaz 2011] Be aware that non-pharmaceutical methods of increasing milk supply should be tried first, as there could possibly be side effects from both herbal remedies and prescription medications used to increase milk supply. See the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s protocol #9 on the use of galactogogues.
Mothers generally notice an increase in production 24-72 hours after starting supplementing with fenugreek herb, but it can take up to two weeks for others to see a change. Some mothers do not see a change in milk production when taking fenugreek.
Safety for mom and baby
Fenugreek is considered safe for nursing moms when used in moderation and is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe). Experts have found fenugreek to be a potent stimulator of breast milk production that appears safe for mother and baby. It is easy to find and is inexpensive; however, as with most medications and herbs, various side effects have been noted; see the next paragraph for possible side effects. Fenugreek may be an uterine stimulant and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Fenugreek is widely used as one of the herbs to increase breast milk supply. It seeds contain diosgenin that has been shown to increase milk flow.
What is the right Fenugreek Dosage?
Recommended daily intake is from 600 mg to 1800 mg.
Where can I find fenugreek?
There are a lot of products that contain fenugreek: some of the options are fenugreek tea, blessed thistle and fenugreek tea (teas may include other galactagouges). The tea usually has a bitter taste and can be hard to drink for a lot of moms. Fenugreek capsules to increase milk supply is a popular choice amongst moms. Teas, capsules could be found in most grocery/supplement/specialty/vitamin/nutrition stores and online. If you have any concerns about any of the products containing fenugreek to increase breast milk, please consult with a lactation consultant prior and always read the ingredient list before taking any supplements.
Fenugreek Possible Side Effects
Fenugreek is not right for everyone. Please consult a medical professional if you notice any of the following if taking fenugreek for breast milk boost:
- Sweat and urine smells like maple syrup (this is common and often a sign that you have reached the right dose)
- Occasionally causes loose stools, which go away when fenugreek is discontinued.
- Over dosage may cause intestinal distress and nausea (please see recommended dosage)
- Hypoglycemia in some mothers
- Can cause uterine contractions - do NOT use if you're pregnant
- Diabetic mothers should use caution with fenugreek since it can cause lowering of blood glucose levels.
- The herb can cause asthma symptoms in some women
Use with caution or avoid if you have a history of: allergies to peanuts or chickpeas; diabetes or hypoglycemia, asthma.
Most of the time, baby is unaffected by mom’s use of fenugreek. In some cases, baby may smell like maple syrup. However, some moms have noticed that baby is fussy and/or has green, watery stools when mom is taking fenugreek and the symptoms go away when mom discontinues the fenugreek.
Fenugreek can cause GI symptoms in mom (upset stomach, diarrhea), so it’s possible for it to cause GI symptoms in baby too. Allergic reaction is also possible if your baby has allergies to pea family. Always consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.