Fenugreek seed has a long tradition of being used as an agent to increase the production of breast milk (“galactagogue”). There is general agreement among health care advisory organizations, including the World Health Organization, breast feeding is recommended for at least 6 months, due to its short and long term health benefits to the recipient. Not all women have sufficient milk production to succeed in a 6-month duration, and simple, safe methods are welcome options. The goal of this randomized, controlled, double-blind, clinical trial was to evaluate the effect of a fenugreek seed herbal tea on the signs of breast milk sufficiency in female infants from birth to the age of 4 months.
The study was conducted in Tehran, Iran and included 78 healthy female infants and their mothers. The infants weighed between 5.5 and 8.8 lbs., had normal sucking ability, were not consuming infant formula or other sources of nourishment. No other herbal or pharmaceutical agents were being used by the women to promote lactation.
The lactating women were randomly assigned to receive an herbal tea containing 7.5 g fenugreek seed powder in addition to 3 g black tea powder (n=39) or to the control group that was an herbal tea containing 3 g black tea powder (n=39). Teas were consumed 3 times per day, 2 hours after each meal for 4 weeks.
Growth measurements included infant weight, height, and head circumference and were done at baseline and each weekly visit. Mothers completed questionnaires about demographic factors and breastfeeding conditions and completed a 2-day account of the number of daily wet diapers, frequency of infant defecation, and the number of times they breast fed each day.
Upon entry into the study, women in both groups had similar body mass index, age, and similar infant weight, height, or head circumference.
After 4 weeks of teas: weight, head circumference, number of wet diapers, frequency of defecation, and number of breastfeeding times increased significantly in the fenugreek group compared with baseline. The growth in infant height was not different between the two groups. Growth in height difference between the 2 groups was not significant.
Commentary: While this was a small study, and the use of fenugreek teas was used in conjunction with black tea, it appears that fenugreek seed did improve signs of breast milk sufficiency. It would have been useful to know how much fenugreek seed was in the tea, how the tea was prepared as we do not know if it was an infusion or a decoction or even just mixing the powder into hot water and instantly drinking. It would also be useful to know how much liquid was consumed in each unknown amount of tea. I would also want to know if this approach could help a woman reach the goal of 6 months of lactation. All of that said, this study in my view, supports the tradition of fenugreek in promoting milk supply in lactating women, and supports the usefulness of it in women who want to assure the delivery of adequate milk to their infants.
Ghasemi V, Kheirkhah M, Vahedi M. The effect of herbal tea containing fenugreek seed on the signs of breast milk sufficiency in Iranian girl infants. Iran Red Crescent Med J. August 15, 2015;17(8):e21848. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.21848.