The role of a doula does not include recommending medications or supplements. It does include providing information, when asked, so clients can make their own informed choices. Fenugreek is one supplement we’re asked about a lot. It almost always comes up in conversation with clients, or in our Infant Feeding class, and even during breast pump consultations.
What is Fenugreek and Why Take it?
Great question! Lactating humans are often pointed towards supplements to help boost their milk supply, and one of those supplements is Fenugreek. Fenugreek is an herb and the seeds from the fenugreek plant smell and taste like maple syrup. You can purchase fenugreek in capsule form, or as a tea.
You may be desperate to do something to help your milk supply. Maybe your baby is fussy all the time, or maybe you feel as if your baby is never satisfied after feeding at the breast. And let’s all admit that the fact our breasts don’t have ounce markers on them like bottles do can make it hard to feel confident that your baby has had enough breastmilk. But a *true* low milk supply IS pretty uncommon, as there are usually underlying causes for low milk supply such as: supplementing, nipple shields, not feeding on demand, tongue/lip tie, mom’s health.
These days, most of us like to hop on Google and do some “research” and try some home remedies instead of making a phone call to book an appointment with a provider that likely won’t happen for several days. If we wanna be extremely honest with ourselves, we can admit that taking a handful of pills (and maybe seeing results in about 48 hours) is a whole lot easier than doing the physical, emotional and mental work associated with truly correcting low milk supply issues.
But did you know?
Instead of boosting your milk supply, it could actually cause it to decrease. How do you know if it’ll increase or decrease your supply? You won’t know until you take it and find out, unfortunately.
The good news is we have an amazing selection of IBCLCs and lactation specialists who can help if you run into supply issues. If you’re turned off by the wait times for an appointment—don’t worry! Our Infant Feeding Specialists are trained for these exact situations. We can step in and help until you can see the lactation expert. We also have some amazing Fenugreek Free supplements (in our boutique—available in office and online) by Legendairy Milk, the originators of the Fenugreek Free Movement.
According to the Lactmed, Drugs and Lactation Database, out of 85 women who took fenugreek as a way to increase milk supply, 45% of them reported having an adverse reaction. And we’re not just talking about a decrease in milk supply here. There are other possible adverse reactions.
- Gastrointestinal side effects (upset stomach, gas, diarrhea) for both mom and baby
- Fenugreek is a legume plant and those with sensitivities to foods such as chickpeas, peanuts, or other legumes may experience a reaction to fenugreek.
- Large amounts of fenugreek may be problematic for women with thyroid conditions.
- Large doses of fenugreek may also cause other issues such as low blood sugar.
- Excretion of maple syrup odor from urine, sweat, and possible breastmilk after taking fenugreek (this is actually one symptom that was desirable a few years ago when it seemed like every breastfeeding mother was taking fenugreek—it was perceived as a sign you were taking “the right amount”.)
Know the signs of low supply. Know the signs of a full, satisfied, nursing baby. Take a breastfeeding class such as our Infant Feeding Class, and/or schedule a prenatal lactation consultation with an IBCLC. And if you want more information on Fenugreek Free lactation support supplements, check out our boutique online.
For further reading, check out these sources:
Humphrey, Sheila. (2003). The Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Minneapolis, MN: Fairview Press.