Are you a breastfeeding mom who is curious about the safety of fenugreek? In this post, we’ll take a look at what evidence shows about the effects of fenugreek on breastfeeding and whether or not it is known to decrease milk supply or not.
Fenugreek is probably the most commonly recommended and popular galactaoguges around. However, in recent years, there have been an increasing amount of people (lactation professionals and moms alike) warning against its use.
A few months ago, I had someone comment on my protein powder recommendations telling me I shouldn’t recommend “Milk Dust” because it had fenugreek in it with this comment:
“You really shouldn’t be recommending something that has Fenugreek in it. While Fenugreek can help some women produce more milk it can also completely kill your milk supply and there is no way to know which reaction you will have before taking it. This is why it is no longer recommended for breastfeeding moms.”
This was a pretty dramatic comment, especially saying that “this is why it is not longer recommended for breastfeeding moms”, because, as far as I’ve seen, there hasn’t been an official announcement that this is the case.
I have heard many not recommend fenugreek anymore – and because of this, I have stopped recommending it as well. However, I realized I needed to look into this more and see what research is available, why it might cause milk supply issues, and if it’s as devastating for supply as many claims.
Not surprisingly – there isn’t a ton of research out there. Fenugreek is probably one of the most studied galactagogues, though the research is still lacking. Pretty much all the cases I found showing that it lowers milk supply have been in Baby Center forums. That doesn’t mean those situations aren’t legitimate – there just isn’t a ton of research to completely discontinue the recommendation to use it.
I believe it’s important to look at all the available information, examine your personal history, and make an informed decision. It can be hard to wade through all the information available, so I have tried to look at what’s available to help you make a decision.
If anyone has published research or case studies that show something contrary to this and that further supports not recommending fenugreek, I welcome you to share it in the comments.
Here is a summary of the information I have found.
Always work with a lactation professional on your specific milk supply and lactation issues. I offer world-wide virtual consults if you need one!
Hypothyroidism and Insulin-Dependent
You should avoid use of Fenugreek if you have hypothyroidism or are insulin-dependent due to the fact that Fenugreek can lower T3, a thyroid hormone, and can decrease blood sugar.
Many postpartum moms have thyroid issues, so getting a postpartum thyroid panel done can be beneficial – I would also recommend working with functional medicine practitioners, as they have different recommendations for thyroid levels that I think are more appropriate for diagnosing thyroid issues. It should be noted that the research to support this was done on mice and rats.
Some have raised the question of it potentially lowering an infant’s blood sugar, since it can decrease the mom taking it. There is no research to show this, but it’s important to consider since low blood sugar is very dangerous for an infant.
If you have stomach issues already, you may want to avoid Fenugreek due to the impact it can have on the digestive system. The stress of dealing with stomach issues while breastfeeding may lead to nursing less, thus, a decrease in milk supply.
You should not take Fenugreek if you are pregnant, due to the fact that it is a uterine stimulant. This is worth noting since many experiences a loss of milk supply while pregnant, so it can be tempting to use a galactagogue to help increase milk supply
Combined with Other Galactagogues
It may be most effective when taken in combination with other galactagogues as opposed to on its own (source). I frequently see recommendations to combine certain galactagogues with fenugreek for maximum benefit, such as Milk Thistle.
In my research, I came across this is a great article from Mother Love about the “Fenugreek Free” movement. They go through the existing research, insights from experts, etc. I think it really does a great job of summing up this discussion. I emphasize their opening statement, “For over 30 years, we have worked with thousands of mothers who have successfully supported their breastfeeding journey with fenugreek. We believe in sharing facts, studies, and anecdotal evidence here at Motherlove instead of using generalized statements that fail to offer you the right of informed choice.“
Motherlove does sell Fenugreek products, such as their More Milk Plus, but they also sell non-Fenugreek supplements, such as More Milk Moringa. Obviously, you could argue that they are in the “lactation supplement” business, so they are motivated to promote its use. However, I found their article to be well-rounded and research-based.
For an alternative opinion from someone who doesn’t recommend it after her research, you can check out this article from The Lactation Nutrionist. Her primary arguments are because since it can potentially lower your blood sugar, that perhaps it might do the same for your baby, scientific evidence is lacking, and potential side effects. She does not recommend it for anyone pregnant or
According to this article (which references the book “Making More Milk: The Breastfeeding Guide to Increasing Milk Production), “One low-supply parent went from pumping 4oz a day to just drops after taking fenugreek for several days. It took her a week after stopping fenugreek to regain her supply.” I haven’t read the book, so I am not aware of the circumstances surrounding this.
Dr. Jack Newman, a leading expert in breastfeeding, has a great article on his website about Fenugreek that I recommend reading. A few things I gleaned from this article:
- Fenugreek works quickly – usually within 24 hours, and if it doesn’t work within 72 hours, it probably won’t ever
- Do not buy fenugreek that is combined with thyme
- If you have diabetes and use Fenugreek, be more vigilant about checking your blood sugar while taking to monitor its impact
- If you are allergic to legumes, you may be allergic to Fenugreek
This study of 66 mothers that maternal use of Fenugreek was useful in establishing milk supply and helping with infant weight gain in newborn babies. I found that interesting!
Another study looked at a pill with fenugreek, ginger, and tumeric, and they found a significant increase in milk supply.
And finally, this page has a nice overview of all the current research on Fenugreek and Breastfeeding as of 2019. It is from LactMed
Side Effects of Fenugreek
There are some known side effects of Fenugreek, including:
- Maple Syrup smell on skin and in urine
- Upset stomach
Fenugreek Dosage for Lactation
The dosage you should try can vary depending on the situation and person, but here is the dosage that Kelly Mom suggests for lactation:
- 500 mg capsules: 7-14 capsules daily (split up throughout the day)
- Tincture: 1-2 ml, 3x daily
- Tea: 1 cup of tea, 2-3 daily
Because I’m super curious about this, I decided to put together a little survey about Fenugreek and breastfeeding. Obviously, this isn’t a scientific study, but I am hoping to can give me more insight!
I personally used Fenugreek with my second child when I was struggling with milk supply, and I DO feel like it helped. With that said, I experienced some uncomfortable stomach issues, so I discontinued use. I have a lot of stomach issues, though, and I am more sensitive than the average population.
Overall, my conclusion is that many, many women have used Fenugreek with success for a lot of years. There are possibly more side effects or blame for milk supply loss due to the fact that it is one of the most widely used herbals out there, so with that high of use, there’s bound to be issues reported.
As with any herbal medication, it’s not regulated and it is really isn’t studied, so there’s potential for issues with poor quality sources or side effects not being reported.
With that said, if you have any concerns about hypothyroidism or diabetes/blood sugar issues, it would probably be wise to avoid use. I also feel that is best when it is used in combination with another supplement.
Finally, I believe that more research should be done on this topic. I do not discount the experiences of those who have seen a drop in supply when using Fenugreek or the lactation professionals who have observed this. I think that, especially when combined with other herbals, it may be effective and worth trying for some. But you need to take a careful look at your medical history and work closely with a lactation professional to come up with a plan that works best for you.