Fenugreek is an herb used for medicinal purposes and in cooking from time immemorial. It was even described on an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 B.C., according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Breastfeeding women experiencing low milk supply may use fenugreek to help boost their milk volume, but it's important to get the dosage correct.
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Fenugreek Method of Action
Fenugreek can increase a woman's breast milk supply because it acts as a galactagogue, a substance for increasing milk supply. Kelly Bonyata, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), explains that this stimulates the milk ducts and can increase milk production in as little as 24 hours.
The recommended dose of fenugreek for the purpose of increasing breast milk supply needs to be at least 3,500 mg per day, according to Bonyata; otherwise, it will have little to no effect. In capsule form, 3,500 mg equates to about six capsules daily. If drinking fenugreek tea instead of taking capsules, drink two to three cups a day, recommends Bonyata. Another option is taking fenugreek in powdered form — about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon — three times a day. Though doses under 3,500 mg of fenugreek a day may be ineffective, doses much higher are not recommended. To find the correct dosage, Bonyata recommends slowly increasing the daily amount until your urine starts to smell similar to maple syrup.
The amount of fenugreek you need to increase milk supply may also depend on how you breastfeed. The more frequently you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce, according to Dr. Bill Sears, pediatrician and professor at the University of California at Irvine. Women who choose to supplement with baby formula may need more fenugreek because their milk supply will be lower than women who breastfeed exclusively.
Fenugreek Safety Concerns
While fenugreek may be effective, it is not recommended for everyone. Diabetic women who take fenugreek may experience dangerous drops in blood sugar levels, according to Bonyata. She states that since the fenugreek herb is related to the peanut plant, women with peanut allergies should also avoid it. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that common side effects of fenugreek include gas and bloating. If pregnant, you should also not take fenugreek because it can stimulate the uterus and lead to early induction of childbirth.