Fenugreek and breastfeeding; these are probably two words you will hear side by side often during your breastfeeding journey. Many moms struggle with low supply. It can be frustrating trying to nurse a baby or to pump an adequate amount when you aren’t producing enough. Fenugreek has long been touted as a natural way to increase milk supply. Fenugreek is a herb that is considered a galactagogue, something that increases breastmilk production. It has been in use for centuries even though modern studies produce varying results.
If fenugreek does not sound like the solution for you or if you want to double up on methods, you can also try power pumping!
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a plant with small whitish flowers and your typical green leaves. It also produces small tan fenugreek seeds within its pods.
Indian and Asian cuisine, as well as Chinese Medicine, all use Fenugreek. The flavor, when added to dishes, resembles maple syrup. Interestingly enough, mothers who take Fenugreek supplements will also smell of sweet syrup.
Rather recently, Americans have started ingesting it for its many health benefits. Fenugreek can boost testosterone, help control blood sugar in diabetics, and is a galactagogue.
Breastfeeding mothers who take fenugreek pills or drink fenugreek tea often do so hoping it will increase their milk supply. The results are mixed. Some studies show that its role in milk production may be more psychological than physical.
A few moms will notice an increase almost immediately, within the first two to three days, others may have to wait a week or two, and still, some never see an increase. You can use Fenugreek until adequate supply levels resume or long-term.
Is Fenugreek Safe When Breastfeeding?
Fenugreek is a safe substance to consume while breastfeeding. As they use it to flavor artificial maple syrup and you can find it in many cuisines, fenugreek is pretty harmless.
However, it does interact with some medications such as insulin and anticoagulants, so check with your doctor prior to taking it in any form. Take Fenugreek with caution if you suffer from asthma or diabetes.
Fenugreek is in the same genus as peanuts so use care if you have a peanut allergy or have had prior negative reactions to peanuts.
Possible Side Effects
Fenugreek regimens come with a few side effects. Some moms experience intestinal upset. Fenugreek has been associated with diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea in breastfeeding mothers. These side effects may not only be present in you but in your baby as fenugreek passes through breastmilk.
Fortunately, in most cases, a reduction in the amount of fenugreek or complete cessation provides symptom relief.
Fenugreek and Breastfeeding; Do I Need It?
Determining if you need a galactagogue can be difficult. Most moms assume that they need fenugreek when this isn’t always the case.
If your baby is meeting weight goals set by your pediatrician while exclusively nursing, then your milk supply is probably fine. If your baby is not gaining weight, then you should meet with your child’s doctor or lactation consultant.
There are a few methods and factors that are not good indicators of milk supply. Often, supply levels change with your hormones during your monthly cycle.
Babies can go through cycles as well, and the frequency and duration of nursing rarely indicate supply. They may be having a growth spurt or just experiencing a particularly fussy phase. A baby that is nursing more frequently, fussing at the breast, or seems to drink slowly does not always mean your supply has dropped.
Finally, the feel of your breasts or the sensation of a letdown, or lack thereof, are also not good indicators of the milk supply level.
If you are pumping and not producing enough, or if your doctor has recommended trying to increase your supply, then you can consider fenugreek.
How to Use Fenugreek
Fenugreek comes in capsules, powdered form, seeds, or as a tea. The product you purchase should come with a dosing chart. In most cases, once you experience an increase in milk supply, it is safe to stop consuming fenugreek with no negative effects.
It is best to use Fenugreek in conjunction with other supply increasing techniques. This includes nursing frequently and on demand, reducing the use of pacifiers and/or bottles, and adding in pumping either directly after baby nurses or in between feedings. The removal of milk from the breasts signals to your body it needs to produce more.
Start off slowly by taking fenugreek and using supply increase methods. It is easy to go from having too little milk to having too much. Engorgement can return if you overdo it with your breastmilk production efforts.
Best Brands of Fenugreek
You can take fenugreek either in its pure form or blended with other herbs classified as galactagogues. Breastfeeding moms most commonly take fenugreek in the blended form, but if you would like fenugreek in the pure form we have provided you some of those options as well.
Pure fenugreek is often marketed towards the general population and may not target nursing moms directly.
Nutrigold Fenugreek GOLD – a top-rated, gluten-free, GMO-free, organic product produced in the USA
Nature’s Way Fenugreek – available at most supermarkets and free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Solaray Organic Fenugreek – organically grown and 100% vegetarian, produced without fillers.
Fenugreek Blends for Breastfeeding Moms
Fenugreek blends are typically created just for nursing moms. They include a variety of supply increasing herbs along with fenugreek and may even have additions like probiotics.
Pink Stork True Milk – this blend contains fenugreek as well as blessed thistle powder, milk thistle extract, goats rue powder, anise seed powder, and fennel seed powder. A powerful blend with some of the best-known galactagogues.
Mommy Knows Best, Blessed Thistle Herb and Fenugreek Seed – a pared-down blend that works quickly.
UpSpring Milkflow – A powdered drink mix with a mixed berry flavor containing fenugreek, carrot seed, beetroot, anise, and blessed thistle. For women, who have difficulty swallowing pills.
Fenugreek and Breastfeeding Final Considerations
If you decide fenugreek is for you, carefully review any drug interactions and/or allergies. It is best to discuss taking a fenugreek supplement with your doctor, pediatrician, or lactation consultant prior to starting.
When you take fenugreek, begin with a small amount and increase the dosage very slowly over the course of a few days to weeks. If you notice any symptoms, cut back or stop taking fenugreek.
With so many great brands on the market, you are sure to find one that will help make your nursing journey lasting and pleasant!
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