Many new moms have questions about fenugreek and breastfeeding. They have heard that it can work wonders for their breast milk supply. However, before you try it, there are some things that you should know.
What is It?
Fenugreek is a plant was used heavily in ancient Chinese medicine but has become a popular herb used for Indian cuisine and some spice blends. The seeds and crushed leaves are added to some soaps and other cosmetic products, and it’s a spice found in many kitchens around the world. It has a nutty flavor that adds a unique flavor to select dishes.
One of the traditional uses for fenugreek was the induction of labor, so it’s only fitting that the herb is now used by many new mothers to keep breast milk flowing.
Does Fenugreek Really Increase Milk Supply?
If you’re looking for solid scientific proof that fenugreek boosts milk production, we can’t give you that level of confidence. What we can say is the herb is generally considered safe when consumed and is widely used around the world as a natural way to increase milk supply. If you trust anecdotal evidence from women in various countries and cultures, you should feel confident at least giving this method of milk stimulation a chance.
There has been some limited research into this application of fenugreek, and the following conclusions have been drawn by experts:
- Not all studies were scientific, and many used blends that contained other ingredients besides fenugreek. It’s impossible to say for sure that the results in those studies were due to fenugreek alone or perhaps its combination with select other ingredients.
- The best results were achieved with the use of fenugreek within the first two days of postpartum.
- The results seemed to become less impressive by the two-week mark but were still present in some studies.
- It’s possible that the improvements in milk supply were due to psychological belief rather than physical transformations. That’s the belief of some medical professionals, but keep in mind that fenugreek is known to have an estrogen-like effect inside the female body. That hints that it does more than give psychological hope.
Many natural remedies are lacking in scientific evidence because they just don’t receive a lot of attention from modern researchers. That doesn’t mean fenugreek won’t work to boost your breast milk supply. It just means you shouldn’t rely on fenugreek alone. Try pumping strategies and other natural remedies along with fenugreek to maximize your chances of improving milk supply and keeping it strong until your baby is ready to wean.
How much fenugreek should I take for breastfeeding?
There’s no set dosage of fenugreek that’s guaranteed to work for every breastfeeding mother. It’s a matter of trial and error until you find something that works or eliminate it entirely as something that just doesn’t work for you. Many mothers see the first signs of enhanced milk production within 24-48 hours, but don’t give up too soon if you don’t think it’s working. Giving it a week will allow you to safely rule it out if improvements aren’t seen.
Some moms use this herb to boost milk supply on a short-term basis, while other continues to use it on a longer term basis. Both are completely safe options.
Low milk supply is one of the most common concerns for new mothers. Whether you’re breastfeeding exclusively or pumping so others can help feed the baby, fenugreek is one of the easiest and most popular ways to boost breast milk supply. You may have a lot of curiosities about this plant beyond its use in Indian cuisine and imitation maple syrup. That’s why we took the time to answer the most frequently asked questions in one convenient place.
If you want to use whole fenugreek seeds, add a teaspoon to hot water and drink it like a tea. You can do that several times a day, so think of it as taking a relaxing mommy time out that may help boost your milk supply for the little one.
If you want a more aggressive approach, look for fenugreek capsules that offer higher concentrations that you can take quickly three to four times per day. Doses can go up to 600 mg per capsule, so read the package instructions carefully to determine the highest safe dose of the supplement you select.
You can also add fenugreek powder or seeds to smoothies and any dish you cook to provide a little more benefit. Maybe now is the time to learn a few Indian cuisine recipes that the whole family will enjoy.
Does Fenugreek Affect the Baby?
There are no known side effects that would harm your baby while taking fenugreek to increase milk supply. Many women use it successfully without noticing any changes in the health or behavior of their babies. It’s possible that your breast milk may have a slight smell reflecting the presence of fenugreek, but that’s no difference than any food you eat while breastfeeding.
As with any food or supplement, if you start to notice changes in the way your baby feeds or reacts to your milk, see your doctor or pediatrician right away. Babies are just like adults when it comes food allergies and sensitivities. It’s possible something your consuming is having an impact, whether it’s fenugreek or not.
What are the Side Effects of Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is known to cause the following side effects in some people:
- Increased asthma attacks
- Maple-like smell to urine
Most women can take at least a low dose of fenugreek without noticing side effects. If you have asthma or a cancer that is sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, you should consult your doctor before taking fenugreek or any other supplement with these known side effects. Remember, this herb does have an effect similar to estrogen, which is probably why it helps boost milk production.
Keep in mind that fenugreek is used to stimulate childbirth, so you shouldn’t take fenugreek if you become pregnant again. Some women are able to continue breastfeeding while pregnant, but taking fenugreek could impact your pregnancy.
When Should I Stop Taking Fenugreek?
Fenugreek can be taken several times a day, and up to four time a day with some supplements. You should stop taking it when you feel your milk supply no longer needs the boost or you worry that the boost is going to put your production into overdrive. There’s no set timeframe in which you must stop using the supplement, so it’s a personal decision based on how your body responds to fenugreek.
One option is to continue using fenugreek a few times each week as an herb added to meals, smoothies or other snacks. That delivers a bit of the beneficial herb throughout the week without administering a more concentrated dosage. You can always go back to taking more fenugreek later if you feel your milk supply starts to diminish again.
If your breast milk supply seems to decrease anytime you stop taking fenugreek, consider it a supplement that you might need until you no longer want to breastfeed. Most women are able to stop daily supplementation once their milk supply has reached a healthy level that is satisfying and nourishing for their baby.
Keep in mind that this is a supplement that may stimulate childbirth. If you decide to start trying for another baby while breastfeeding, you should stop taking fenugreek just in case your efforts are successful. You may not know that you’re pregnant in time to stop taking the supplement after the fact. It’s always best to stay safe when it comes to your babies.
How Should I Prepare Fenugreek?
There are a few options for preparing fenugreek, and you may decide to use more than one strategy to boost the amount of fenugreek you consume. Some women need a little each day while others only see results with small amounts. You can always switch administration methods if you don’t get the results you want the first time around.
- Buy a fenugreek capsule. Make sure it contains no other ingredients and is produced by a reputable brand name.
- Purchase a milk-stimulating natural remedy that contains fenugreek. Pay attention to the other ingredients in the formula, doing your research to make sure they benefit milk production in some way. Also check the amount of fenugreek in the supplement. Some manufacturers will add a small amount just to add it to the label, but it’s not enough to really benefit your milk production. It’s better to take a pure fenugreek capsule if you’re uncertain of how much is in a mixed product.
- Purchase fenugreek seeds and add them to hot water to make a tea. You can enjoy the tea several times a day or even sip it throughout the day.
- Use fenugreek seeds in your smoothies and other foods. They have a nutty flavor that some people like, but it’s not for everyone. The benefit to using raw seeds is you always know what’s in them and how much you’re taking.
- Learn to cook with fenugreek. Indian cuisines may call for it, but you can add it to any dish that you feel fits the flavor profile. Once you try it, you’ll have all the inspiration you need to come up with unique dish ideas.
If you’re experience significant decrease in milk supply or are worried that you’re not satisfying your baby’s nutritional needs. You should go with a quality fenugreek capsule that offers a more concentrated dosage. You should take it at least a few times each day, and hopefully you will see some improvement in your milk production within a day or two.
Who Should Not Use Fenugreek to Increase Milk Supply?
At this point, you know that fenugreek isn’t safe if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. If you have any medical condition that may have a reaction to an increase in estrogen in your system, you should consult with a medical professional before taking fenugreek. That includes women with or how have a history of hormone-sensitive cancers.
You may also want to check with your doctor first if you have asthma. It’s a good idea to start with a low dose or perhaps a few sips of fenugreek tea to make sure it doesn’t impact your asthma. Not all asthma sufferers have problems with fenugreek, so it’s a personal issue that requires a decision based on your medical history and comfort level.
Are There Other Ways to Boost Milk Supply?
If you don’t want to try fenugreek to boost milk production or you find it doesn’t deliver the results you expect, there are some other milk-boosting strategies you may want to try:
- Make sure both breasts are emptied every time your baby breastfeeds. You may need to pump out any remaining milk if your baby doesn’t empty both breasts.
- Add pumping sessions to your breastfeeding schedule. (Power pumping is VERY effective!) The greater demand for milk, the more your body should increase supply. You can use the milk you pump to start a freezer stash.
- Allow your baby to breastfeed on demand. Even if the little one wants to feed for comfort reasons or falls asleep at the breast, you’re increasing demand in order to increase supply.
- Make sure your baby is latching properly and is given enough time to feed to satisfaction every time.
- Eat milk-boosting foods or lactation cookies!
You can also consult with a lactation consultant or pediatrician well versed in breastfeeding if you think your baby isn’t latching properly or is having other issues with breastfeeding that may impact your supply. The best way to keep your breast milk flowing is to establish effective breastfeeding habits right from the beginning.
Remember, studies have found fenugreek is most effective within the first two days of a baby’s life. If you haven’t given birth yet, you may consider taking fenugreek right from the start to give your supply that initial boost. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and start producing too much milk. It’s natural to produce just enough colostrum for your baby to thrive in the first few days, so don’t panic if you don’t notice voluminous breasts flowing with milk from day one.
- Lactation Cookies to Increase Supply
- Power Pumping to Increase Breast Milk Production
- 20 Ways to Increase Breast Milk Production
- How to Know if Your Baby Is Getting Enough
- Your Breastfeeding Questions Answered, NHS.uk, Accessed Jan, 27, 2020. Link.
- Fenugreek, NIH, Accessed January 28, 2020. Link.
- Fenugreek, Lactmed @NIH. Accessed Jan. 28. 2020. Link.