Breastfeeding has been associated with multiple medical and psychological benefits. Women with a strong desire to breastfeed, but with a limited milk supply, are often interested in potential ways to augment their milk production.

Fenugreek is a plant whose leaves may be used as an herb and whose seeds may be ground into a spice; it is consumed internationally in multiple food preparations including curries, pastes, soups and teas.

Fenugreek supplements are commercially available over the counter and are often taken to increase breast milk production. Even though these supplements are derived from plants, they are not risk free and have been associated with some side effects including hypoglycemia, uterine contractions, gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea.  In addition, because fenugreek has a strong maple syrup flavor, lactating women taking a fenugreek supplement may exude a maple syrup scent.

Like many supplements, there is very spare safety data regarding the use of fenugreek supplements for breastfeeding and the impact this supplement may have on the developing infant.  It is also important to remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA.  When thinking about taking a supplement, it is recommended that patients talk first to their health care providers.

Betty Wang, M.D.

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