Fenugreek is the most popular galactogogue, or herb used to stimulate an increase in milk production. For centuries, mothers have used fenugreek to increase their milk supply, and today the Food and Drug Administration lists it as GRAS, or generally regarded as safe. Fenugreek has few side effects for mother and those may or may not be passed on to the baby.
Naturopathic medicine promotes a holistic approach to health with minimal use of surgeries and drugs. Please make sure to consult your physician before attempting naturopathic remedies at home.
Maple Syrup Odor
Fenugreek can cause nursing mothers and their infants to develop a noticeable "maple syrup" body odor. Although this odor is completely harmless when caused by ingesting fenugreek, it can raise concern if unexpected. This odor can also be confused with a similar smell that, when present in infant urine, signals a serious metabolic problem called maple syrup urine disease, according to the Baylor College of Medicine. To avoid unnecessary confusion or concern, be sure your baby’s doctor knows you are taking fenugreek.
Fenugreek may cause gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea if you take doses of 100 g or more a day. But, the usual dose for breastfeeding mothers is about 3 to 8 g three times daily, making the worry for intestinal upset small. If you do experience these symptoms, watch your baby for signs of colic or upset stomach that might be attributable to fenugreek use.
Fenugreek’s historic use as a uterine stimulant to promote childbirth precludes taking it while you are pregnant.
Because fenugreek may also have some blood-thinning properties, use it with caution if you have any condition requiring the use of blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, after the birth of your baby. Even though, in limited studies, warfarin itself has not been detected in human milk, changes in clotting time have been noted in the babies of breastfeeding mothers taking warfarin. Do not take warfarin during your pregnancy as it may harm the fetus. Also use fenugreek with care if your breastfeeding baby requires blood-thinning medication.
The University of Michigan’s Health System cites studies showing fenugreek lowers blood sugar.
As with anything you ingest, an allergic reaction is possible for you and/or your baby, although rare, according to Baylor College of Medicine. Fenugreek is part of the legume family, so those with peanut allergies should avoid fenugreek. Ruth Laurence, MD, of the University of Rochester suggests watching your baby for colic, stomach upset and diarrhea.
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: Natural Galactogogues
- Baylor College of Medicine: Consumer News: Facts and Answers
- University of Michigan Health System: Fenugreek
- U.S. National Library and National Institutes of Health: Maple Syrup Urine Disease
- Aetna InteliHealth: Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fenugreek