Fenugreek and Breastfeeding: Does It Help With Lactation?

Updated on October 22nd, 2020
Fenugreek for Breast Milk

Physicians recommend that infants should be fed exclusively with breast milk for the initial 6 months of their lives. Breast milk has all the required nutrients your baby needs for proper development and growth. It also contains antibodies from the mother, helping build the baby’s resistance to infections and immunity.

Unfortunately, not all lactating moms can produce enough amounts of breast milk to feed their babies. However, mothers can take some foods that can help improve the supply of breast milk. Fenugreek is one such food that helps improve breast milk production.

What Is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek is a herb native to India, western Asia, southeastern Europe, and Africa’s northern regions. Trigonella foenum-graecum is its scientific name of fenugreek. India is the largest producer of fenugreek worldwide.

The leaves and seeds of fenugreek are prevalently used ingredients in most South Asian dishes. Fenugreek is packed with nutrition and has various health benefits, particularly for lactating mothers.

Fenugreek Benefits

Fenugreek has been found to improve milk supply in some women, especially in the initial breastfeeding days [1]. If taking fenugreek tea helps you drink more water overall, the extra hydration might also improve your supply. 

While fenugreek may have just a placebo effect, if it works for you — and you have gotten the go-ahead from your doctor — there’s no harm in taking it. But never try any herbal remedy, or otherwise, without consulting your physician first while you’re breastfeeding or pregnant. 

[Read: 10 Amazing Fenugreek Benefits]

Fenugreek for Breast Milk

Is Fenugreek Safe for a Lactating Mother and Her Baby?

Fenugreek is absolutely safe for breastfeeding mothers and their babies [2]. However, pregnant women, diabetic women, women who are allergic to chickpeas and peanuts, and women with hypothyroidism should check with their physician before incorporating fenugreek into their diet.

Does Fenugreek Increase Breast Milk Supply?

Fenugreek is a reputed natural galactagogue, which means the herb increases breast milk production in lactating mothers. Leaves and seeds of fenugreek have been used by breastfeeding mothers to improve breast milk supply for hundreds of years.

How Does Fenugreek Support Increase Breast Milk Production?

Fenugreek has multiple vitamins and flavonoids, which are useful for lactating mothers. It also has phytoestrogen, which is similar to the female hormone estrogen, which stimulates the breast milk ducts to grow. Fenugreek also has a compound called diosgenin, which increases milk flow in breastfeeding women.

Fenugreek Seed for Increasing Milk Supply

How much should you take? 

If you’re looking for these uses in your own life, you probably want to know about how much fenugreek will do the trick. Herbal tea drinkers can simply steep one teaspoon of whole fenugreek seeds in a cup of boiling water for about 20 minutes and sip at leisure 2 or 3 times per day.

If you’re looking for a more concentrated variant of fenugreek, you may want to take capsule supplements. An ideal dose is usually two to three capsules (580 to 610 milligrams per capsule) 3 or four 4 per day but lookout for package instructions.

Fenugreek capsules work quickly, so fortunate moms will likely see an increase in milk production in as little as 24 to 72 hours. Others may have to wait about two weeks — and sometimes, fenugreek just is not the answer.

Before you begin, remember that herbal supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription medications are. Check with a lactation consultant or your physician before taking any herbal remedy, and stick to reputed brands.

[Also Read: Healthy Lactation Recipes for Breastfeeding Moms]

Side effects of fenugreek

The study with 25 breastfeedings moms 

The good news is that no side effects were observed. And fenugreek is on the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) GRAS list [4] (it’s “generally recognized as safe”).

But LactMed [5]— a database of drug information related to lactation — does report some apprehensions. It says fenugreek is mostly “well-tolerated,” but some of the more general potential adverse effects include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • urine smells similar to maple syrup

Here’s also a critical point to remember: If you are pregnant, you’ll want to stay away from fenugreek — it can cause uterine contractions.

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Interactions with other drugs or herbs 

There are no recorded interactions with other drugs for those taking fenugreek to boost milk supply. But there’s some proof that fenugreek lowers blood glucose levels, so women who have diabetes may need to alter their insulin dosage.

It may also interact with blood thinners such as warfarin. Check with your physician before taking fenugreek or other herbal supplements, particularly if you have diabetes or take prescription drugs.

Ways to consume fenugreek

There are umpteen forms of fenugreek can take for consumption purposes, including:

  • Fenugreek tea
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Fenugreek supplements
  • Fenugreek oil
  • Fenugreek sprouts
  • Fenugreek baked into baked goods like cookies 
  • Fenugreek powder
  • Fenugreek leaves

When to call the doctor

It is good to contact your physician before you start taking fenugreek, particularly if you’re taking any other herbal supplements or prescription drugs because of the risk of an adverse interaction. Also, talk to your physician if you’re experiencing any of the more severe symptoms listed above.

In most instances, fenugreek is regarded as safe, but remember that there is no scientific data that it actually boosts breast milk supply. The FDA hasn’t approved it as being a remedy for low milk production.

But if your milk production is low, your lactation consultant may recommend Mother’s Milk tea (which includes the ingredient) or fenugreek tea. And if it’s working for you and your physician gives you the go-ahead, you might want to give it a try.  

Bottom Line

Lactating is an art. (Do we have you thinking of those beautiful paintings of suckling infants?) But it is not always simple. Fenugreek may help, particularly if you have apprehensions about production.

If you’re still finding that lactating your newborn is a challenge, check with a lactation consultant or your doctor — herbal remedies won’t solve all milk supply issues.

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