One of the many tried and tested methods to increase breast milk supply includes galactagogue. These are foods, herbs and spices that aid in an easy and faster let down of milk. And Fenugreek happens to be one of the most common galactagogues among breastfeeding mums.
It is a plant whose seeds (usually either ground or crushed) have many uses. For one, it is commonly used in food like maple syrup, curry, chutneys and spices (curry powder or five-spice).
Crushed seeds are also used to make medicine for various ailments.
Fenugreek also happens to be one of the most common galactagogues (substances that help increase breastmilk supply) among breastfeeding mums. | Image courtesy: Stock Image
Aside from giving flavor to food, fenugreek also provides health benefits. It seems to slow sugar absorption in the stomach and stimulate insulin production. It is used for gastric issues, kidney problems, heart ailments as well as erectile dysfunction in men.
How effective is fenugreek in increasing breast milk supply?
It is important to first note that only proper and frequent feeding offers guarantees in boosting and maintaining milk supply. According to MothersCircle, fenugreek’s efficacy as a galactagogue has not been consistently proven despite having been used by mothers for centuries.
After taking fenugreek, some report a clear boost in volume of expressed milk, while some do not. The speed by which an increase in milk supply is noted also varies, from within three days up to two weeks of starting the herb supplement.
How much should one take?
In terms of dosage and safety, a woman may take two to four 580-610 mg capsules three times per day (or seven to fourteen 500 mg capsules per day).
According to KellyMom.com, dosages of less than 3500 mg per day reportedly produce no effect in many women which could be the reason why some mothers are not registering an increase in their output.
Some may balk at the dosage, fearing overdose and considering the expense (a bottle of 200 caps can cost around $19.99). But one needs to ingest more for fenugreek to work as a galactagogue.
Are there any side effects?
Regardless of how short or long the herb was taken, most nursing mothers do not notice adverse side effects. This, apart from their urine or body odour smelling like maple.
One can also stop taking supplements without feeling any withdrawal symptoms. However, according to WebMD.com, extra sensitive people may experience diarrhoea bloating and gas as well as allergic symptoms like nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing and facial swelling.
Is it for everyone?
Experts may discourage pregnant women from taking fenugreek supplements for two reasons:
- It may lower their blood sugar and put their pregnancy and life at risk; and
- It may result in babies being born with a maple-like smell. Which in turn and lead physicians to misdiagnose them a maple-syrup urine disease (MSUD).
It is also always better that nursing mothers consult their doctor first before starting any herbal supplement. A professional advice regarding use and proper dosing is important, as it may vary with age and health history.
Nursing mothers with strong allergic histories, especially those who have not done well with other herbal supplements, may have to think twice about using this particular galactagogue. Diabetic mothers and those who suffered from gestational diabetes may also have to consider something else. That’s because fenugreek might complicate their condition.
Sold in most health and wellness stores, fenugreek supplements do not require a prescription in Singapore. However, nursing mothers should proceed with caution to make informed choices. They can do so according to their health history and with the consent of their doctor or lactation consultant.
Sources: www.kellymom.com, www.motherscircle.net, www.webmd.com
Also read: Breast milk supply FAQ