Feeding FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Breast Feeding

Question – Worried about milk supply

My second baby is due any day and I am fretting over breast-feeding as I failed miserably with my first for various reasons, and ended up with bleeding nipples and a very poor milk supply. Having read some other people’s suggestions about increasing milk supply, I’m a bit confused, so would love some clarification.

The advice seems to involve fenugreek, fennel, Weleda mother’s milk tea and blessed thistle. I can’t seem to find a UK company that makes Weleda’s tea. Should fenugreek and fennel be taken together?


I’m sorry to hear you had such a hard time breast-feeding with your last baby and wish you the best of luck this time around. I’m impressed that you’re so keen to succeed. Firstly, do be reassured that having trouble feeding one baby doesn’t always mean you have difficulties the second time around. Part of breast-feeding success is the teamwork between mother and baby, and some babies do just seem to take to it better than others, making it easier or more difficult for their mothers and changing the likelihood of bleeding nipples and other problems.

You’ve obviously been spending some time researching ways to increase milk supply. I would suggest that you try to establish a good milk supply by feeding and expressing frequently (as outlined in The Contented Little Baby Book) before trying special teas or herbal remedies. You could also contact specialist breast-feeding consultants through groups such as the UK’s National Childbirth Trust or the La Leche League, who have branches across the world.

While many people take herbal remedies such as fenugreek without any obvious adverse effects, and feel that it does increase their milk supply, it’s important to remember that we are taking them as a drug. Even though they are herbs and should be safe (apart from possible allergic reactions) in the amounts used to flavour food, as herbal remedies they are being taken in larger amounts for the effects of the chemicals they contain, just as we would take medications from the chemist. Anytime we do this, we need to be aware of possible side effects. For example, fenugreek, while generally considered to be safe, contains substances that may thin the blood and may reduce blood sugar levels. It can also have effects on the digestive system, such as diarrhoea, and some asthma-sufferers have reported that their asthma worsened when they took fenugreek. It’s also possible that people allergic to peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas or regular garden peas may find they react to fenugreek. Do note that this herbal remedy should not be taken while pregnant – it has been traditionally used to bring on labour, though its safety and effectiveness in this area isn’t known, and could increase the risk of miscarriage or early labour.

Another issue to remember is that any drug or herbal remedy carries the possibility of interactions with other drugs or herbal remedies you may be taking. So fenugreek could potentially increase the effect of blood thinning medications (which you might be put on in a medical emergency, without a chance to discuss any herbal remedies you are taking) and of diabetes treatments, with dangerous consequences. For all these reasons, I recommend that you discuss any herbal remedies with your GP before taking them. This should also mean they are listed on your medical record, just in case you were taken into hospital in an emergency. This includes herbal teas, as again they are being drunk for the medicinal effect of the herbs they contain.

One last point: remember that anything we take into our body while breast-feeding may end up in our baby’s body via our breast milk. Their little bodies can be more sensitive than ours. It’s definitely a time for extra caution and checking first with a medical expert.