What is fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a plant that is used to cook with in many parts of the world. The Fenugreek seeds are sold as a supplement and are marketed to help breastfeeding women make more milk.
Should I take a fenugreek supplement to help my milk supply?
We do not recommend supplements because their production is completely unregulated. No agency is checking to make sure the supplement is safe, effective, or even contains what the label says it does! There is no guarantee that the potency or ingredients are correct. Also, no one checks to make sure the factories are clean. If you do take a supplement, do not but any that are produced in China. There have been several cases recently where foods and supplements from China have contained harmful ingredients to make the product cheaper.
There has been very little research done on the efficacy and safety of fenugreek. The information we have is mostly anecdotal and far from the evidence-based medicine we like to promote. Of what little is written about fenugreek, some report that it will only work if other changes are made to promote better breastfeeding management. These changes include removing milk more often, ensuring baby has a good latch, and many more. If you have questions about this and would like more information, please ask for a lactation counselor and we will help you.
Other research suggests that if fenugreek is going to help, it will do so within 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, there is no reason to continue to take the supplement. If fenugreek has not worked after 2 weeks, it is likely not going to help your milk supply and you should stop taking it.
Who should avoid taking fenugreek?
- Do not take fenugreek if you have a peanut or chickpea allergy, it is in the same plant family and may cause an allergic reaction.
- If you have problems with your blood sugar, are hypoglycemic, or diabetic.
- If you have asthma.
- Avoid fenugreek if you are pregnant. It can stimulate contractions and may cause pre-term labor.
Are there any safer ways to increase my milk supply?
Absolutely! Please ask one of our lactation counselors and we can help you come up with a plan to improve your milk supply. This is a common fear for breastfeeding women and one we address frequently.
Also, there are some foods (that are definitely safe and healthy) that many women report help increase their milk supply. These include oatmeal, barley, almonds, coconuts, curry, spinach, carrots, asparagus, brown rice and apricots. Getting plenty of rest and taking daytime naps can boost your supply as well.