Lactation cookies - do they really work? When to start eating them, plus an easy recipe
Lactation cookies are said to help breastfeeding mamas - find out more here
Lactation cookies, whether you bake a batch yourself or buy them, some breastfeeding mothers have turned to them to optimize their milk supply.
Not that we're ones to bad-mouth cookies, but we've asked the experts and, there isn’t much science to back this up. If you’re feeding your baby breastmilk, supply will be on your mind whether you are breastfeeding or using expressed milk from a breast pump.
Paediatric and pregnancy dietitian and owner of Bumptobabynutrition.com, Hannah Whitaker tells us, “The combination of [certain] ingredients is said to increase milk supply when consumed regularly. There is no evidence base for these claims.” Mom-of-one Casey sampled lactation cookies when breastfeeding her daughter; “I was very conscious of maintaining my milk supply because I was exclusively pumping. A family friend who had breastfed recommended lactation cookies. I bought them from Amazon then switched to Etsy.”
Breastfeeding can be a hard slog for many moms, with Kiran, mom-of-one telling us; "For something that's 'so natural' it did not 'come naturally' it was a lot of learning, wiggling about and feeling my way around. I managed to breastfeed for 9 months and was constantly scared of getting mastitis and was so nervous about stopping breastfeeding - but it worked out fine in the end and I'm glad I persevered."
What are the ingredients in lactation cookies?
Typically, a lactation cookie contains brewer’s yeast, flaxseed, oatmeal, the herb fenugreek, and possibly nuts and dried fruit.
Nutritionally speaking, experts are dismissive of the claims that lactation cookies can help with milk supply. The School of Public Health at the University of Indiana recently published a study that found no evidence that consuming lactation cookies improves milk supply. The research also found that relying on lactation cookies can prompt false hope in mothers. Expert paediatric and pregnancy dietitian and owner of bump2babynutrition.com Hannah Whitaker agrees, “There is no evidence base for these claims.” In addition, a La Leche League spokesperson also told us, “Over the years there have been many myths relating to breastfeeding. At present, there is no research that proves that eating specific baked goods will increase milk production.”
When to start using lactation cookies
If you are going to sample cookies, there are guidelines about when to start. Hannah explains: “Manufacturers advise starting to use them is after your baby has been born and you have established breastfeeding – usually around two weeks postpartum. However, as a dietitian, this is not something that I would recommend.”
Instead, as Hannah tells us, “Consuming a well-balanced diet, including all food groups – balanced carbohydrates, proteins, unsaturated fat and fruit and vegetables is essential when breastfeeding.”
Rhiannon Lambert is a registered nutritionist, author, and host of the Food For Thought podcast.
Rhiannon adds, “If you’re concerned about your milk supply, it’s always best to speak with a lactation expert to see if you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to help support your milk coming in. There’s no harm in eating lactation cookies as part of a balanced diet. They can be a great source of energy and fibre but know that they are not essential and are not necessary for milk production."
How many lactation cookies should I eat?
Cookie manufacturers suggest starting with two cookies per day. However, eating too many lactation cookies is not advised.
Hannah explains, “Lactation cookies should not be consumed with the aim to increase breastmilk supply. If the homemade cookies contain nutritionally balanced ingredients, then they can be a balanced snack containing omega 3 and fibre. But, just like any other snack, if eaten multiple times per day this can lead to excessive calories or high consumption of certain ingredients such as brewer's yeast and flaxseed, which is high in fibre and could affect the bowels.”
Casey can’t be sure if the lactation cookies she ate did help her milk supply: “It’s hard to say if they affected my supply, I was trying all sorts: alcohol-free beer – I read the yeast helps; drinking loads of water to stay hydrated, breastfeeding vitamins and dried fruit bars with fenugreek. I experienced both over-supply and under-supply – there didn't really seem to be any rhyme or reason.”
Lactation cookie recipe
With a few special ingredients these quick and easy cookies are a great way to increase milk supply for nursing mothers.
Makes 18-20 cookies
Prep 20 mins
Cook 20 mins
You will need: 2baking trays lined with baking paper
- 200g butter, softened
- 200g brown sugar
- 2tbsp barley malt, ‘must have’ (we used Meridian, widely available in health stores, online and bigger supermarkets)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1 medium egg
- 150g rolled oats
- 150g plain flour or you could use oat flour
- 3tbsp Brewers Yeast, ‘must have’ (this is available online or in health stores, if you can’t get it you can use baking yeast which is available in larger supermarkets)
- 1tsp baking powder
- 3tbsp milled flaxseed, ‘must have’
- 100g macadamia nuts, chopped, ‘must have’
- 200g chocolate chips or dark chocolate, chopped
- Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat together with an electric whisk or wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add the barley malt, vanilla and egg, and beat until fully combined.
- Fold through the oats, flour, Brewers Yeast and baking powder followed by the flaxseeds, macadamia nuts and chocolate chips. Stir everything to fully combine. Chill for 30 mins.
- Heat the oven 180C Fan/Gas 6. Roll the dough into approx 18 equal size balls weighing approx 40-50g each. Put onto the prepared baking trays every spaced apart. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt.
- Bake for 14-16 mins until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, leave on the trays for a few mins to cool. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve.mpty list
Once baked, you can tightly seal these cookies and freeze them for up to 3 months. Alternatively, freeze the batter before cooking for up to 3 months. Roll the batter into a sausage shape and tightly seal. When ready to bake, heat the oven and slice the cookies into disks, then put them into the oven. They may take a few mins longer but they will be just as delicious.
- If the batter is sticky, dampen your hands and roll the cookie into balls, or add a tbsp more flour.
- If you don’t have brown sugar, you can use golden caster sugar as an easy alternative.
- Feel free to add more nuts or seeds to make these cookies even tastier, you could use milk or white chocolate too, instead of dark.
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Jo is a freelance journalist, writing for newspapers, magazines and websites such as Good Housekeeping, Grazia, Mother & Baby, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Bella, Yours and Woman&Home. Jo started out in entertainment journalism and has scurried up plenty of red carpets and interviewed stars such as Joan Collins, Dawn French, Jane Fonda and Julie Walters. These days, she mainly covers health, parenting, lifestyle and consumer news but is always keen to vent in an opinion piece or dust off her schmoozing skills and interview a celeb. When not writing (and reading) Jo loves to get outside, wear out her two sons on a beach, drink good coffee and expand her baking repertoire.
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