Fennel, Breastfeeding, and Increasing the Supply of Breast Milk

Information, Uses, Warnings, and Side Effects

Fennel corm on chopping board, kitchen knife
Can Fennel increase breast milk supply?. Westend61 / Getty Images

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a common herb that many people use for cooking and healing. You can trace this sweet, licorice-flavored spice all the way back to ancient Egypt. For centuries, fennel has been given as a treatment for digestive problems and menstrual issues. It is also used by breastfeeding women to stimulate and increase the production of breast milk.

Fennel, Breastfeeding, and Increasing Breast Milk Supply

Fennel is believed to be a galactagogue which is something that brings about more breast milk.

It's taken as an herbal treatment to help mothers who breastfeed to increase their breast milk supply. One of the reasons it may work for some women is that the fennel plant has estrogen-like properties. 

Other Benefits and Uses for Fennel

  • It has been used to promote healthy digestion and treat stomach upset and gas.
  • It can pass through breast milk to help a baby’s digestion and relieve the symptoms of colic.
  • It has been used for centuries to relieve menstrual problems and balance the menstrual cycle.
  • It can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
  • It can increase your metabolism and has been used for weight loss.
  • It has been used to loosen chest congestion.
  • It is used for aromatherapy treatments and in essential oils.
  • It is thought to increase libido.

How to Use Fennel to Make More Breast Milk

You can add fennel to your diet by drinking fennel tea, eating it as a vegetable, or using it as a spice to flavor foods.

Fennel does get into your breast milk, but it is considered safe and perhaps even healthy for your baby.

As a Vegetable: The vegetable part of the fennel plant can be eaten raw or cooked. You can easily add it to soups or other dishes.

As a Tea: Place 8 ounces (1 cup) of boiling water in a mug with 1 to 3 teaspoons of fennel seed and let it sit for approximately 10 minutes.

If you have them, freshly crushed fennel seeds are preferred. You can drink fennel tea three times a day.

As a Herb/Spice: Fennel seeds can add flavor to many recipes, including fish, salads, and sauces.

You can also take fennel in combination with other herbs, such as fenugreek, alfalfa, nettles, and blessed thistle.

The Warnings and Side Effects of Fennel

Herbal remedies have been used as medical treatments for thousands of years. Many of the medications available today are made from herbs. Herbs can be very potent and dangerous. They often have side effects and can even be toxic. For this reason, you should always discuss the use of herbal treatments with your doctor, lactation consultant or another herbal specialist, and be sure to purchase your products from a reputable source.

  • Do not use fennel during pregnancy.
  • Fennel may increase the risk of seizure. Therefore, you should not use fennel if you have epilepsy or any other type of seizure disorder. You should also avoid fennel if you take medication for seizures.
  • Be careful and talk to your doctor if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia. Fennel can lower blood sugar levels.
  • Your child may become sleepy after drinking breast milk containing fennel.
  • Use this herb in moderation. Taking too much fennel is believed to do the opposite of what you are using it for, and it may instead cause a decrease in your breast milk supply.
  • Fennel is available as an essential oil. Using the essential oil during pregnancy can be very dangerous. You should also be aware that it shouldn't be put on small children.
  • If you put fennel on the skin, it can cause skin allergies or reactions.

Does Fennel Really Work to Increase the Supply of Breast Milk?

Some women report an increase in breast milk production with the use of fennel. However, it doesn't seem to work for everyone.

There isn't real scientific evidence to prove that it does work, but there isn't evidence to say that it doesn't work, either. Since you can easily incorporate it into your everyday diet, it may be worth a try.  

In Conclusion: Fennel, Breastfeeding, And Breast Milk Supply

If you'd like to try fennel, the best way to receive its benefits is to add it to your diet in the foods that you eat. Preparing and drinking breastfeeding teas is another safe way to take herbs. You just want to be sure to buy your fennel seeds from a trusted source. And, keep in mind that you do not want to use fennel is excess because too much fennel is believed to dry up the body and decrease the breast milk supply.

If you have any questions or health concerns, discuss the use of fennel and any other herbal treatments with your doctor, a lactation consultant or an herbal specialist.

Sources:

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM Clinical Protocol# 9: Use of Galactogogues in Initiating or Augmenting the Rate of Maternal Milk Secretion (First revision January 2011). Breastfeeding Medicine. 2011 Feb 1;6(1):41-9.

Bown, Deni. Herbal. Barnes & Noble Books. New York. 2001.

Humphrey, Sheila, BSC, RN, IBCLC. The Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Fairview Press. Minneapolis. 2003.

Jacobson, Hilary. Mother Food. Rosalind Press. 2004.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Continue Reading