Breastfeeding and/or pumping doesn’t always come as naturally to some new mamas as they hoped. Many nursing mothers are concerned about providing enough milk to sustain their little one(s) and wonder whether or not eating lactation cookies can help them boost their milk supply.
Keep in mind, feeding your baby is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Whether exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, feeding formula, or any combination, a fed baby is a happy and healthy baby.
While there’s not much research to show that lactation cookies do work, many mothers have reported great success. Even if the ingredients don’t boost milk supply on their own, the nutritious cookies are a quick, easy, and tasty way to ensure you’re eating enough to fuel milk production.
It’s also very natural and common to be worried about your milk supply- many mothers do! But low milk supply isn’t as common as the concerns. Often, mothers who feel their milk supply is not enough may actually just be nursing more frequently or for longer stretches of time (source: La Maze).
Don’t forget to check out our top 10 list of foods that can boost your milk supply, too!
What Are Lactation Cookies?
Lactation cookies are exactly what their name suggests- cookies that help support lactation and boost milk supply. These cookies typically include galactagogues, which are ingredients that are thought to help a woman’s body produce breast milk, or simply produce more milk (source: La Maze).
We’ll walk through how the different ingredients work in more detail below!
While lactation cookies have traditionally been homemade, they’re also commercially available. A quick search brought up three main brands, BoobieBar, Munchkin Milkmakers, and Happy Mama, all of which were also available at US grocery stores.
What Ingredients are in Lactation Cookies?
Overall, lactation cookies are pretty simple and not a whole lot different from a standard “dessert” cookie, particularly oatmeal cookies. While every recipe is unique, typical ingredients include:
- Brewer’s yeast
- Flaxseed/flax meal
- Chocolate chips, peanut butter, caramel bits, etc. for FUN
Lactation cookies can be made into virtually any flavor, though chocolate chip appears to be the most common since oatmeal is a key ingredient.
How do Lactation Cookies Work?
Lactation cookies contain galactagogues, but how exactly do these ingredients work?
Galactagogues rely on the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for telling a woman’s body to produce milk. Taking galactagogues signals your body to increase prolactin and therefore increase milk production (source: South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology).
Another consideration when it comes to milk supply is the amount of energy required by the mother’s body. Lactation is hard work! On average, lactation requires an additional 450-500 calories each day and if you’re not eating enough, your milk supply can take a hit (source: CDC).
Lactation cookies are quite nutritionally dense, thanks to the addition of oatmeal and flax. Lactation cookies may help improve low supply if undernutrition is the cause.
The cookies are a great way to get a quick and hearty bite when you may not otherwise have the time or energy to sit down for a full meal. Plus, you only need one free hand to eat a cookie!
Do Lactation Cookies Really Work?
As with many foods and other ingredients, there’s mostly anecdotal evidence when it comes to benefits during pregnancy and lactation.
Little scientific research is available to show that any galactagogues, including the ones in lactation cookies, actually improve lactation (source: South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology).
Let’s take a closer look at each of the core ingredients in lactation cookies.
Oats- Oats have found their way into nearly every milk-boosting recipe. A quick internet search pulls up pages of anecdotal reports from lactating moms who swear by eating oats for blessing them with a large milk supply.
Unfortunately, the scientific evidence isn’t quite there, as there’s currently no research on this topic, neither in support or against oats. As a nutritious pantry staple, there’s also no harm in eating oats with hopes of making more milk.
Brewer’s yeast- Occasionally referred to by its scientific name, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the research behind brewer’s yeast is also lacking.
Positively, the yeast is known to be a good source of chromium, B-vitamins, and beta-glucans which can all boost milk production Brewer’s yeast was shown to increase milk production in animals, but this has yet to be shown in humans (source: Nutrients).
Flax- Flax is a good source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen. It’s thought that the phytoestrogens in flax work to increase prolactin, however, most of the evidence for this is shown in postmenopausal women (source: Nutrition and Cancer).
What we do know is that lactating mothers who ate flax produced milk with a higher amount of beneficial AHA fatty acids which is important for baby’s brain development (source: LactMed).
One very promising research study recently got underway. The researchers working on this project are comparing the changes in breast milk production for women who eat lactation cookies versus regular cookies.
This will be a “randomized controlled trial,” which is considered the gold standard of research and the outcome will show us how well (if at all) lactation cookies really work (source: Clinical Trials).
How Long Does it Take for Lactation Cookies to Start Working?
If lactation cookies really do work, there is no tried and true timeline for how long the process takes. Commercial lactation cookie companies advertise anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, and a range does seem the most accurate.
Everybody is different when it comes to digestion, and the core ingredients in lactation cookies will need to be digested before acting on hormones and milk supply.
But, since digestion is involved, don’t expect the cookies to cause an instant increase in milk production. It’s likely that enjoying them consistently would give you the best chance at seeing a boost in milk supply.
When Should I Start Eating Lactation Cookies?
Many women hope to prevent any potential issues with milk supply by eating lactation cookies, but is there a “best” time to start this snack?
After giving birth, it takes approximately three days for your full milk to come in. This happens as your body naturally experiences a decrease in progesterone and a rise in milk-producing hormones, such as prolactin (source: Medela).
There is no need to try and “jump-start” this process by eating lactation cookies, as your body will also begin to learn how often and how much baby drinks during feeds to make the right amount of milk.
Prolactin tends to be highest at night and right after waking in the morning (source: University of Michigan Health). If you’re struggling to produce enough milk during the day, try eating a couple of lactation cookies mid-morning, so that there’s time for them to digest before afternoon feedings.
Note: If you’re worried about milk supply, or lack thereof, be sure to reach out for professional help. Lactation consultants (IBCLC or CLC) are specially trained to provide personalized encouragement and help when it comes to lactation issues of all kinds.
Another time to try the cookies if you find you’re struggling to eat enough during the day. As a quick and easy snack, lactation cookies bring together fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and fats- all of the important components in a balanced meal or snack!
Knowing you have a go-to snack on hand can even take away the stress of planning your next meal, potentially increasing your milk supply as well.
How Many Lactation Cookies Should I Eat? How Often?
Unlike supplements and medications, there’s no “dose” when it comes to lactation cookies. Pre-packaged lactation cookies available in grocery stores do offer a serving size or suggestion, but this is also a required part of food labeling.
The new clinical trial that I mentioned earlier is studying mothers who eat two ounces of cookies daily. This works out to be around one or two cookies, depending on how large you bake them.
Because the ingredients work to stimulate prolactin production, it’s also likely that adding the cookies into your daily routine would lead to a consistent increase in prolactin and more milk for you.
Breastfeeding and/or pumping is hard work that takes a lot of energy! A couple of cookies each day can be a part of a healthy postpartum diet.
Don’t stress about if you’re eating “enough” or “too many” lactation cookies. Stress is actually thought to be one of the main factors that can decrease milk supply (source: UT Soutwestern Medical Center).
There are also many other factors that influence milk supply, including how often your baby nurses, how much milk your baby takes at each feeding, if you’re pumping, and (if applicable) your pumping schedule.
If you want to switch up your milk-making boosters, head over to our lactogenic foods article for more ideas.
Can Men Eat Lactation Cookies?
As I mentioned earlier, lactation cookies aren’t a “magic bullet” for stimulating breast milk production. This, coupled with men typically having undeveloped mammary glands, means that eating lactation cookies won’t cause the men to suddenly begin producing milk- a common fear of many men! (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine)
There is absolutely nothing in lactation cookies that make them unsafe or unsuitable for the men in your life to enjoy alongside you. But depending on how often you want to bust out your baking supplies, you may want to keep them all for yourself- they are still delicious cookies, after all.
Can Kids Eat Lactation Cookies Too?
Short of hiding dessert to enjoy after your kiddos have gone to bed for the night, it’s pretty hard to get away without your kids asking for a cookie (or two).
Just as men can enjoy lactation cookies, children can as well. If your kids are still little, be sure to serve the cookie in developmentally appropriate-sized bites.
Keep in mind, brewer’s yeast can lead to gas and bloating, as well as migraines and Crohn’s flare-ups. If your child has Crohn’s disease or is prone to any of the other symptoms I just mentioned, it may be best to offer them a cookie without brewer’s yeast.
For pumping and breastfeeding moms, it’s natural to worry about your milk supply as you want to provide the most you can for your baby. While low supply issues aren’t as common as you may think, lactation cookies certainly are!
Brewer’s yeast, flax, and oatmeal are the core ingredients for the cookies. Though there’s not much evidence to show that eating lactation cookies leads to more milk, they are a quick and tasty snack. Plus, you never need an excuse to eat a cookie!
Don’t forget to check out our top 10 foods to boost your milk supply, too for more inspiration and ideas.