Fenugreek has been traditionally used to cure a number of ailments, including digestive and respiratory ailments. It's also had a long history as a women’s health remedy and can induce labor, help with childbirth, treat gynecological issues and ease the pain of menstruation. Fenugreek is primarily used today as a galactagogue to increase breast milk production in breastfeeding mothers.
Fenugreek does pass into the breast milk, but it's believed to be safe for both mom and baby when used in moderation.
You should be aware that fenugreek can cause your breast milk, urine, and sweat to smell like maple syrup.
Does Fenugreek supplements actually work to increase breastmilk production?
A 2018 review of studies of 122 mothers who took fenugreek showed that the herb really did increase — significantly increased, in the words of analysts — the amount of milk they produced.
And a 2018 study compared 25 mothers who took a super-mix of fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric with 25 mothers who took a placebo.
The mothers who took the super-mix had a 49 percent increase in milk volume at week 2 and a 103 percent increase at week 4.
How long does it take for Fenugreek to increase milk supply?
Generally, if you consistently take fenugreek and continue with a good nursing or pumping schedule (two hours per day for exclusive pumpers), you should see an increase in your pumping output in 24-72 hours.
Modifying the way you breastfeed can also help to increase your supply. Try to:
- breastfeed often
- pump between feedings
- feed from both sides each time you cuddle up with your baby
- foods to increase your milk supply
- 5 Tips for new breastfeeding moms
If you’re still finding that breastfeeding your little one is a challenge, check with your doctor or lactation consultant — herbal remedies won’t solve all milk supply problems.
Is Fenugreek safe?
For most women, yes. However:
Fenugreek is most often used as a natural and herbal way to help with breast milk production. One common side effect of this herb is diarrhea, so beware, it can both be you or your child that may get an upset stomach, but if you start out slow and gradually increase the dosage it can stop the diarrhea from happening.
- You should use it with your OB’s supervision if you are diabetic, because it can lower your blood glucose levels.
- If you have a peanut or chickpea allergy, you should avoid fenugreek.
- If you have asthma, discuss use with your doctor, as there have been reports that fenugreek has worsened the symptoms of mothers with asthma.
- If you have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor before using fenugreek.
You should also note that there is always risk when taking supplements. Some women have actually noticed that their supply decreased (so the opposite effect of what they wanted).
Does Fenugreek have side effects for the breastfeeding baby?
Most of the time, no, though sometimes your baby might also smell like maple syrup.
Some moms have noticed that their babies become fussy after mom starts taking fenugreek. If you notice this, it’s worth stopping and seeing if it was maybe causing an upset stomach for your baby.