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Is the breastfeeding going well, but somehow you feel your supply could be better? If you've heard other new moms talk about a substance called fenugreek -- but you don't know much about it -- check out our primer. We've got all you need to know about this ancient herb and how it may help you produce more breast milk for your baby.
What is fenugreek?
Fenugreek is an herb that's been used medicinally for millennia, though more commonly in the U.S., the seeds from this plant are taken in capsule form or as a tea to increase milk production in nursing women.
Is fenugreek safe?
"Mothers around the world have always used herbs and foods to enhance milk production, but for the most part they haven't been evaluated in any scientific way," says Allison Walsh, a lactation consultant and childbirth educator in New York City and the past president of Lamaze International. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate fenugreek, but it does appear on this group's "Generally Recognized As Safe" list, as it can be used as an ingredient in food (it's sometimes found in curry powder).
What's the appropriate fenugreek dosage?
Since fenugreek isn't standardized by the FDA (this is the case with most herbal preparations), doses for it can vary widely from one pill or tea to the next. "Generally, healthcare providers who recommend fenugreek tell new moms to take one to four capsules three or four times a day," says Walsh. It can also be administered as a tea: steep ¼ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in 8 ounces of water for 10 minutes. Some mothers see an increase in their milk after 24 to 72 hours on the regimen.
Fenugreek and breastfeeding: What do I need to know?
While fenugreek seems to anecdotally benefit nursing moms, it's not a substitute for proper breastfeeding technique. Working with a lactation consultant early in the learning stages of breastfeeding can help yield a solid latch-on and better comfort for both mom and baby. Low milk supply may result if a mother isn't nursing or pumping frequently; getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids can also help with milk flow.
Are there side effects to fenugreek?
As with any medication, check with you doctor or lactation consultant before taking fenugreek. Potential side effects can include gas, bloating, diarrhea and worsening of asthma symptoms. Some women report a maple syrup scent in their babies and their perspiration.
Is fenugreek dangerous?
When taken in large quantities, fenugreek may prevent the blood from clotting. It should also be avoided during pregnancy, as it can stimulate uterine contractions.