Does Fenugreek Help Lactating Mothers?
enugreek- a type of seeds has been one of the popular herbal remedies worldwide for helping mothers boost their breast milk supply. Breastfeeding mothers sometimes lack adequate breast milk due to stress, fatigue, or several other factors. It could be really frustrating for young mothers when they lack adequate breast milk and are unable to feed their little ones.
If you are going through the same issue, consider consuming fenugreek in its natural form or as supplements to improve your breastmilk production. Many young mothers stop partially or completely breastfeeding their babies within the first few months and one of the main reasons why they all head for the formula is because they are worried that they don’t have enough milk to satisfy their baby. Even though some women do have a sufficient supply of breastmilk, there might still be certain circumstances that might prompt them to want to try and boost production. That’s when natural treatments including fenugreek might help.
What is fenugreek?
It is a spice typically used in Indian spice blend ‘garam masala’ and is renowned for tasting like maple syrup. It has been used for several centuries to treat digestive problems as well as to induce labor. In supplement form, fenugreek is used to treat a wide variety of health conditions including low breastmilk supply, eczema, and diabetes. The herb is enriched with phytoestrogens or plant chemicals that are similar to estrogen- the female sex hormoneFenugreek seeds contain hormone precursors that could boost breastmilk supply. It is believed that since breasts are modified sweat glands, fenugreek stimulates sweat production and thereby boosts lactation. Since the seeds or tea comes with a bitter taste which can be hard to consume, fenugreek pills are mostly preferred by mothers who are trying to improve their milk supply.
Can breastfeeding mothers take fenugreek seeds?
Absolutely. Most lactation consultants recommend fenugreek supplements. But it is recommended that you discuss with your doctor before taking them. It is considered and recognized safe by the FDA. It is tolerated well by most people and hasn’t been reported to induce any negative impacts or side effects on infants. Some mothers have however reported that their babies have got a little gassy while they are on fenugreek supplements.
A 2018 systematic review that was sought to test the significance of galactagogue (a substance that induces lactation) effect of fenugreek given to breastfeeding mothers revealed that the supplementation significantly increased the amount of breastmilk supply. The findings revealed that fenugreek’s effectiveness as a galactagogue was superior compared to C. amboinicus and palm date.
Another study conducted in the same year which sought to examine the effects of mixed herbal supplementation on human breastmilk volume found that mixed herbal supplementation with fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric helped increase breastmilk volume without causing any kind of side effects in the lactating mothers. A 2015 study which was aimed to determine the effect of herbal tea made of fenugreek seed on the signs of breast milk sufficiency revealed that fenugreek tea improved the signs of breast milk sufficiency compared to those who didn’t take it.
How does fenugreek help improve lactation?
Although experts aren’t quite sure about how fenugreek works in improving breastmilk supply, it is believed that it might be associated with the phytoestrogens (plant chemicals that are similar to estrogen hormone) in fenugreek seeds.
How much fenugreek should you take to see improvement in breastmilk supply?
- If you are planning to take fenugreek as a herbal tea, you can simply toss a teaspoon of whole fenugreek seeds in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, filter and consume it thrice daily.
- If you want to go for a more concentrated form- try taking fenugreek capsule supplements. Lactating experts usually prescribe 2-3 capsules be taken 3-4 times per day. You could take it under your doctor’s advice and don’t forget to check the package instructions.
In most cases, fenugreek capsules work quite fast and lactating mothers would be able to see improvements in their breastmilk supply, within 72 hours. But in some cases, mothers might have to wait a little longer- about a couple of weeks.
Are there any side effects of fenugreek?
Several studies haven’t reported any serious adverse effects and fenugreek is listed under FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. But even though fenugreek is mostly well tolerated, some of the commonly reported side effects include gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and urine that has the odor of maple syrup. Pregnant ladies are warned against consuming fenugreek as it has been reported to cause uterine contractions.
Is fenugreek safe for the baby, if the breastfeeding mom consumes it?
Yes, fenugreek is very much safe for the baby. In fact, a study conducted last year reported that none of the babies of mothers who consumed herbal tea containing fenugreek and other herbs experienced any kind of side effects- both during the 30-day study period as well as through their first year of lives.
Who shouldn’t take fenugreek supplements?
Although there aren’t any reported interactions with other medications, there is some evidence that fenugreek lowers blood glucose levels. Therefore, women who are diabetic might need to adjust their insulin dosage. And fenugreek might sometimes react with blood thinners. Therefore, those who are taking such drugs should seek a medical opinion before indulging in fenugreek supplements.
Are there any risks of taking fenugreek supplements?
Although they are listed under ‘generally considered as safe’, they are not regulated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. Fenugreek might act similarly to estrogen and therefore shouldn’t be consumed by women who have a history of hormone-sensitive cancers. And it could cause internal bleeding if it interacts with blood thinners like warfarin.
What are the different ways to consume fenugreek to improve breast milk supply?
Fenugreek can be taken in the following forms:
- Added into baked goods like cookies, etc
Herbal supplements aren’t regulated the way prescription medications are. It is very important to discuss your lactation issues with your gynecologist and lactation consultant before indulging in any such herbal remedies. And more importantly, stick to trusted brands like Zenith nutrition.