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Taking fenugreek for breastfeeding can be an effective means of increasing milk supply. Large studies have yet to prove this to be fact, although the herb has been used for this purpose all over the world for thousands of years. Taking fenugreek for breastfeeding is commonly recommended by lactation specialists and consultants to treat low milk supply and, when used in conjunction with other herbs, to aid in relactating.
Small studies of less than 100 breastfeeding women have found that fenugreek can increase milk supply by as much as 40%. Due to the size of these studies, their findings are not considered conclusive and larger studies have not been done. Fenugreek seeds have been found to contain traces of chemicals that alert the human brain to make the hormones responsible for milk production. When introduced in a woman's body, the brain typically responds by producing the hormones responsible for lactating and therefore increasing supply.
Archeologists have found that ancient Roman, Egyptian, and Greek women routinely took fenugreek for breastfeeding. Mothers utilized the herb to increase milk supply, while wet nurses took it to maintain their supply after lactating for several years. This practice continues today in both developed and less developed countries. Despite the lack of large-scale studies, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has listed fenugreek as generally safe to use while breastfeeding.
Those working in the lactation field often recommend consuming fenugreek for breastfeeding in concentrated forms or eating foods that contain fenugreek to increase or maintain milk supply. When taking fenugreek for breastfeeding, it is recommended that a woman consume 1220 mg to 2440 mg per day to address low milk supply. Studies have found that less than 1220 mg per day will have no affect on lactation. Once milk production has reached an acceptable level, fenugreek supplements can be discontinued as long as the child is nursing regularly and emptying at least one breast per feeding.
Women looking to maintain an already healthy milk supply, especially while pumping, are often encouraged by lactation specialists to eat foods containing fenugreek. The herb is a main ingredient in curry powder and is also used as a flavoring in maple syrup. The powder form of fenugreek can be added to several recipes and any number of baked goods.
Mothers looking to relactate often use fenugreek in conjunction with blessed thistle and alfalfa to induce lactation. While it is relatively uncommon for relactating women to be able to exclusively breastfeed a child, more often than not their body will begin to produce milk. The benefits of nursing for both mother and child are numerous; fenugreek has generally been effective for many women in providing breast milk to their child.