I’m not a parent, however, can I speak from experience in practice and hearing my siblings’ experiences: very few things are more disconcerting than your new baby constantly crying from hunger.
So why go through that trauma of not having enough breast milk to satisfy your baby? The herb / spice fenugreek has an age old reputation of increasing breast milk production (galactogogue).
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.), is an erect annual herb native to southern Europe and Asia. It has been cultivated for centuries as a medicinal plant and is widely grown in Mediterranean countries, Argentina, France, India, North Africa, and the United States. The plant grows to a height of 0.3 to 0.8 meters, has trifoliate leaves and grows white flowers appear in early summer that develop into long, slender, yellow-brown pods containing the brown fenugreek seeds.
Is Fenugreek effective and how does it work?
Many mom’s will attest to fenugreek’s efficacy to increase milk production, but unfortunately, exactly how it works is not yet clear as research about the galactogogue action of fenugreek is sorely lacking from the medical / scientific literature. Only a few small studies with positive results have been done so far. For example, a Turkish trial reported that from a group of 66 new mothers, 22 who drank a herbal tea with fenugreek 3 times daily, had significantly higher milk volumes than the control groups of 22 mothers who either drank tea enhanced with apple extract, or the other group of 22 mothers who did not drink any tea. Also, infants in the group of mothers who did drink the fenugreek tea, had less weight loss after birth and regained birth weight more quickly.
Science has shown that fenugreek contains hormonal precursors and some sources suggest that is the link to increased milk production, but again, exactly how it works is not yet clear. Some other sources suggest it is possible because breasts are modified sweat glands, and fenugreek stimulates sweat production. Another proposal by other experts is that it may have to do with the blood sugar stabilizing action that fenugreek has – often mothers have a difficult time taking in all the nutrients required to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and they feel drained, so stabilizing blood sugar may lead to better milk production.
How much Fenugreek should I take?
Flora Force label: Take one to two capsules daily or as prescribed.
This is a conservative dosage level. The German Commission E recommends a daily in-take of 6g (12 capsules). That would be 4 capsules, 3 times per day (Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.)
For how long should I use Fenugreek capsules?
Mothers usually notice an increase in breast milk 24-72 hours after commencing the use of Fenugreek, for some it could take up to two weeks. Once milk production has increased and stabilized, it is not necessary to continue taking the daily dosage. Adequate milk production will usually be maintained as long as sufficient breast stimulation and emptying continues.
Are there any potential side effects?
- Sweat and urine can smell like maple syrup (this is common and often a sign that you have reached the right dose)
- Loose stools in some women until fenugreek is discontinued.
- Can cause uterine contractions – do NOT use during pregnancy
- Diabetic mothers should use caution with fenugreek since it can cause lowering of blood glucose levels
Fenugreek is a safe herb, that can significantly increase the production of breast milk and offer natural help to women with insufficient milk supply.