Foods or medications that help increase milk supply are called galactagogues. Fenugreek is probably one of the best known herbal galactagogues used by breastfeeding moms. Drs. regularly recommend it to their patients. Moms recommend it to other moms. Doulas suggest it to their clients. It is easy to find, inexpensive and often helpful. It doesn’t require a prescription and there are usually no warnings on the bottle. Even so, I rarely recommend it in my practice. Uncomfortable side effects are common; and, for some mothers, fenugreek can be downright dangerous.
Fenugreek does often help increase milk production. It also seems to increase fluid production in the body in general. Because of this, mothers taking fenugreek may notice an increase in sweat production along with milk! Another common side effect is loose stools. Some postpartum moms would welcome this side effect, but not all. If you happen to have any digestive problems already, such as IBS, fenugreek could make you quite sick.
Your baby’s digestion could also be affected by fenugreek. I have seen many babies who were terribly uncomfortable with gas, green super-frequent stools and bright red bottoms who cleared up immediately after their moms stopped taking fenugreek.
And there’s more…
Do you have asthma? Fenugreek could make your symptoms worse.
Are you allergic to peanuts or garbanzo beans? Fenugreek is related to both. If you have any food allergies, it may be best to stay away from fenugreek. If you have a peanut or garbanzo bean allergy, definitely avoid this herb.
Do you have diabetes or hypoglycemia? Fenugreek can impact insulin and blood sugar. No fenugreek for you!
Are you hypo-or hyperthyroid? In rat studies, fenugreek has been shown to impact the thyroid so stay clear.
Are you pregnant? Fenugreek should not be used in pregnancy.
Can you see why fenugreek is not my favorite galactagogue?
If you have concerns about low milk supply, please do not immediately run to the drug store for a bottle of fenugreek. Instead, consult with a knowledgable lactation consultant about your breastfeeding challenges. She will help you determine the reason for the supply problem and develop a plan to increase milk production. The plan may include a galactagogue or a combination of galactagogues. An expert LC can help you decide which ones are appropriate for you and your baby.
Please note: Fenugreek is an ingredient in many lactation-support supplements that include a variety of herbs. It is also common in commercially made teas , cold drinks and cookies that are marketed to help with milk supply. Be sure to read the ingredient list carefully before taking any supplement for lactation!
See also, “Breastfeeding and Milk Supply“
omg likewise thank you so much for posting this. Same issues – gassy fussy baby who screams bloody murder after feeding & diareaha. Plus some digestion issues with mom too. Im throwing it out
Thank you for posting this. I have been taking mother milk tea and also take a pill contain fenugreek to help with my supply. For the last 3 weeks, I wasn’t sure why my baby is so fussy, gassy, and I feel like she was in pain or constipated. She pull her knee to her chest and turn red . I have try colic calm, gripe water and Mylicon to see if this will help her relief some gas.
I have read up on ” fenugreek “., and talk about your baby can be fussy and gassy. I thought it was something I ate but I’m still trying to find out . I have stop the pill snd stop drinking the mother milk tea. My baby seen a little calm but still fussy and gassy. I’m going to see if this fussiness will go away and I probably have to wait for a little bet. I hope this is a answer to my questions. Finger cross and I hope for the best.
I’ve been on fenugreek for 4 days and my son has been a crying mess. I’m stopping it today to see if it stops the crying spells. This also coincided with me giving him a few ounces of donor milk a day. I was blaming the milk but after reading this its probably the fenugreek..
Very likely the fenugreek!
I am a mommy to 5 breastfed children – the B.F. length of time ranging from 3 months to 15 months. A few months ago, my daughter’s pediatrician recommended that I take fenugreek to increase milk supply. Note: I was taking medication during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy for up to 6 weeks for hypothyroidism. Not only did my milk supply not increase, my daughter had an extreme aversion to nursing, was fussy, spit up – at one point she projectile spit up! – was gassier and not her usual calm self. With my husband’s help, I finally recognized that fenugreek was causing distress after a few days of taking 3 capsules 3 times a day. I had already changed my diet numerous times – eliminating dairy, “gassy” vegetables and such foods that could be the cause of such symptoms. After stopping the fenugreek, my daughter was her happy, calm at ease self again. After that my daughter had gone in for a well baby check to find out that this healthy baby had acquired hydrocephalus, which only showed up after taking fenugreek. To this day, her doctors cannot figure out how she got this – it was not genetic, from trauma or any other seemingly scientific reason. We brought the information to her doctors about the fenugreek, to which there is not enough research stating fenugreek can be linked to something as dramatic as hydrocephalus but another one of her specialist doctors did state that fenugreek should never be taken by individuals on medication, since it will interfere with it, nor should anyone take it with thyroid conditions, which just came out ‘on the wire’ for physicians. Thank you so, so much for this information. I hope that no other family has to go through what my daughter, husband and I have been through. Thank you, Renee!
Thank you for writing this article! With my first pregnancy, fenugreek was recommended to me by my OB and I took it, but it did not help. After reading this, I am floored that she recommended it for me – I have colitis, hypothyroidism, asthma, and I am deathly allergic to garbanzo beans! I will definitely be asking for a different suppliment if i need it with this pregnancy!
I’m glad you liked the post. Please contact me if you have supply problems with this baby!
I’m curious about the teas. I do love Mother’s Milk Tea, which of course, does have fenugreek in it. I don’t drink it too often, but is the amount in the tea going to cause as many potential problems as taking it straight? I’m curious…I’ve never taken anything for supply (I’ve been blessed with an amazing supply…not too little, not too much, just the right amount) but I am curious about this.
If you like the tea and it’s not causing you any trouble, there is no cause for concern. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like you really need it! In answer to your question, if you have any of the conditions mentioned in the post, even tea can cause problems. Thank you for writing!
I just wanted to say fenugreek was recommended to me so I took it. For about 2 weeks my baby would just cry and scream and we couldn’t figure out why, well I forgot to take it for a couple days and had a completely different baby. I wasn’t convinced yet tho so I took it again for a couple days and again had a gassy crying baby. No one told me the side effects and we paid for it. Thank you for writing this and lettting people know.
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