Fenugreek, Breastfeeding, and Increasing Breast Milk Supply

Definition, Safety, Use, and Effectiveness

Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek Seeds. Lew Robertson/The Image Bank/Getty Images

What Is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant from India and the Mediterranean. The seeds from this plant have been used throughout history for cooking, flavoring, and healing. Fenugreek has a pleasant maple syrup smell and a bitter taste.

For centuries, fenugreek has been taken to promote health and well-being. It's been used for digestive health, gynecological health, and as a ​galactagogue.

It has even been used by dairy farmers to help increase the milk supply of cows.

Does Fenugreek Increase Breast Milk Supply?

Fenugreek has a long history of use in women's health. It has been used to induce labor and help with childbirth. It is a known treatment for gynecological issues, such as painful menstruation and uterine problems, and it is probably the most common and possibly the most effective herb used by breastfeeding women to make more breast milk. Many women say that they notice a greater breast milk supply after taking fenugreek. However, it does not appear to work for everyone.

Is Fenugreek Safe for Breastfeeding Mothers?

Fenugreek does pass into the breast milk. But, it's believed to be safe for both mom and baby when used in moderation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rated fenugreek as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS).

You should be aware that fenugreek can cause your breast milk, urine, and sweat to smell like maple syrup.

And since it passes to the baby, it can also cause your baby’s urine and sweat to smell like maple syrup. The most common side effect is diarrhea. Diarrhea can affect both you and your child if you start high doses of fenugreek too quickly. But, you can usually avoid stomach issues if you start this herb at a low dose and gradually increased it.

How to Use Fenugreek to Make More Breast Milk

Capsules: (Compare Prices) Fenugreek is available as a capsule, and the capsules are available in different doses. You should talk to your lactation consultant or an herbal specialist to find out which dose is best for you. In general, you can begin by taking one capsule three times a day. Then, slowly increase your dose until either you smell of maple syrup or you're taking three capsules three times a day.

Tea: (Compare Prices) To make fenugreek tea, place 1 to 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in 8 ounces (1 cup) of boiling water. You can drink fenugreek tea up to three times a day.

Fenugreek is thought to work well in combination with other breastfeeding herbs, such as blessed thistle, alfalfa, and fennel, and it's often one of the main ingredients found in commercially available nursing teas. When taken as directed, you can typically expect to see an increase in your breast milk supply within one week.

Health Benefits and Uses of Fenugreek

  • It the most widely used herb to help breastfeeding mothers increase their supply of breast milk.
  • It is believed to promote a healthy liver.
  • It has been used to loosen chest congestion.
  • It is believed to be good for intestinal and digestive health.
  • It may lower cholesterol.
  • It is believed to be helpful in stimulating appetite.
  • It is used in skin ointments and skin creams to help reduce inflammation of the skin.

Warnings and Side Effects Of Fenugreek

  • Always consult a doctor, lactation consultant, or herbal specialist before taking any herbal treatments. Herbs are similar to medications. They can have side effects, and they can be dangerous for you and your baby.
  • You should not use fenugreek if you're pregnant. This herb has been used to induce labor, and it can cause contractions, premature labor, and miscarriage.
  • Fenugreek can lower your blood sugar levels. Use caution and speak with your doctor if you are hypoglycemic or diabetic.
  • Fenugreek can thin your blood. Do not use it if you're taking blood thinners (anticoagulant medication) unless you are under the direct supervision of your doctor.
  • Allergic reactions are possible. If you have asthma, or you're allergic to soy or peanuts, you may also be allergic to fenugreek.
  • When started too quickly with a large dose, fenugreek can cause diarrhea. And, since it does pass into breast milk, your baby can also get diarrhea or display symptoms of colic. Always start with a small dose and gradually go up.
  • Your breast milk, urine, and sweat may smell like maple syrup.
  • Tell your baby’s doctor that you're taking fenugreek. Fenugreek can make your child smell like maple syrup. The smell of maple syrup caused by fenugreek is not dangerous, but there is a serious illness that is characterized by a maple syrup smell. If the doctor doesn't know that the maple syrup smell is from the fenugreek, he can misdiagnose your child with maple syrup urine disease.

Fenugreek: The Conclusion

If you think you have a low breast milk supply, and you've tried to ​increase your milk supply naturally without success, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. Your health care professional may recommend taking fenugreek to try to boost your supply. Fenugreek is believed to be safe, and it's effective for some women. Just remember to start with a small dose and slowly increase the amount you are taking to help prevent side effect. And, always follow the advice and directions of your health care provider. If, at any time you believe your baby is not getting enough breast milk, contact your child’s doctor.


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.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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