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Ask Dr. Gourmet

I barely have 2 days of taking Fenugreek (9 caps) and it seems my milk supply has dropped instead of increasing. I haven't pumped till the second night. Does this mean I need to take a higher dose of Fenugreek for it to work for me or do I have to pump every 2 to 3 hours still?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

This is not a question that I am able to answer. Not only is breastfeeding not my specialty, herbs aren't either. I turned to two people. The answer below is from Nurse Faith and this is supported by one of my colleagues in the Department of Pediatrics.

Faith Says....

Fenugreek is often recommended by natural practitioners to increase milk supply. It safe for normal healthy women if you stick to recommended doses. Fenugreek often works in three days or so. I have found that it seems to help some women but not others. Be careful of fenugreek if you have asthma, as it has been known to make asthma worse.

Many times women who don't have enough milk for their babies are trying to lose pregnancy weight too quickly. If you have started a low fat diet or significantly reduced your calories, go back to eating more. Include healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and small amounts of butter. Breastfeeding is not a good time for severely restricting calories. Weight loss is individual. Exercise is great, limiting sweets can be a good idea, but don't severely restrict your intake.

Consider your activity level. It is easy as a new mom to try to "do it all" and be busy all the time. Take a day or two when you cancel everything (stay in your pajamas if possible), rest and nurse your baby. This will help many women to increase their milk supply.

How often are you breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is definitely a "supply and demand" operation. When baby nurses, your breasts produce more milk. Don't put you baby "on a schedule." Nurse your baby (especially newborns) often.

How do you know that you don't have enough milk? You mention pumping but not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding baby directly, you can be sure that baby is getting enough if he has at least 6 wet diapers and 1-2 dirty diapers.

Do you need to pump because you are separate from your baby or returning to work? If you are trying to pump and are not getting milk, perhaps it is not a lack of milk, but problems with your pump. Talk to a certified lactation consultant or your local La Leche league leader. If you have a poor quality pump (or one that does not suit you) you will have difficult time expressing milk.

Keep working at it! Don't be afraid to consult a lactation consultant. You can find one through your hospital or birth center or through La Leche League.

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN