Here’s how the “lactation” cookie crumbles

Four oatmeal cookies with crumbs on white counter

I am often asked by breastfeeding mothers, “What can I take to increase my milk volume?” Although there are a few medications that have been shown to increase milk volume, not all mothers respond to them, nor are they without some side effects. Since ancient times, certain foods and herbs have been recommended to mothers as an effective way to either support or increase their milk volume. But do they work? 

Lactation cookies are one of the more recent so-called galactogogues – a substance that increases milk volume. I for one would support any treatment that includes eating cookies, especially if they include chocolate! There are a variety of recipes for lactation cookies, but the most consistent ingredients are brewer’s yeast, flax seed and oats. These three elements are full of important nutrients for breastfeeding mothers. For example, just 1 tablespoon of flax seed provides a good amount of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as many vitamins and minerals. Brewer’s yeast is an excellent source of iron, protein and B vitamins. Lastly, oats are a good source of iron. Combining these three ingredients with your favorite cookie recipe, and you have a delicious lactation cookie. But the question remains, does it work?

To date, there have been no studies on lactation cookies, nor on the three ingredients described above and their effect on breast milk volume. However, there are anecdotal reports from women who say they noticed an increase in their volume after eating lactation cookies. There could be several explanations for these reports. It is not news to anyone that having a new baby is exhausting. Frequent feedings, combined with less stretches of restful sleep, contribute to a mother’s emotional and physical state. Finding time to eat a healthy diet – much less grab a bite at all – is challenging. Having a quick snack that is chock full of nutrients that help to combat fatigue and boost your level of omega-3 fatty acids in your milk is beneficial regardless of the effect on milk production.

Finally, just know that if you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, and your baby is gaining weight, then you have the milk supply suited to your baby’s needs. And remember, breastfeeding boosts your metabolic rate and therefore requires that you consume an adequate amount of calories consisting of healthy, whole foods to maintain your energy levels. Surprisingly, studies have shown that even when mother’s diet is not the best, her body will compensate by diverting those nutrients to her milk. So, based on what we know impacts breastfeeding, lactation cookies are a good prescription for mothers to satisfy their sweet tooth while also getting some important nutrients.

About Nancy Hurst, Director of Women's Support Services

I am an international board certified lactation consultant and the Director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children’s Hospital.

I’m the proud mother of 4 adult children (all previously breastfed!) and grandson. I am passionate about providing the best possible support and resources to families who are breastfeeding their infants.

Posted in Breastfeeding

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