*Editor's Note: This post is authored (and was thought up by) Emerald Doula, Michelle Thacker. Michelle is not only a talented doula, she's a skilled baker too!
Mmmm…cookies! Who doesn't love a good cookie, right? Parent know, a cookie (or two) can save you from the late afternoon slump (hello, no naps!), and help you sail through to the end of the day (hello, bedtime!). If you're a NEW parent, you definitely need cookie power.
Today, we're not just talking about any old cookie. We're dishing on lactation cookies. These little tasty treats are special baked delights with specific ingredients that are thought to aid in breastmilk production (more on that later).
In one of my pre-doula lives, I was a baker and cake decorator. When I heard about lactation cookies after my last baby was born, I thought, "Why not?"
When I became a doula, I began collecting various recipes I came across on the internet. Many moms were hesitant to make these cookies themselves because of the (seemingly) weird and (often) expensive ingredients. The baker in me, however, was up for the challenge. Plus, I always wanted to complete a Lactation Cookie Throwdown.
Thankfully, our most recent New Moms Group provided the perfect opportunity to do just that!
The Selection Process
When selecting my recipes, I consider a few different criteria. First, cookies needed to contain a plethora of milk stimulating ingredients (known as galactagogues). Secondly, with such a wide variety of diets and dietary restrictions these days, I definitely wanted to test recipes that would allow all moms to have a sample.
To do this, I offered cookies made from recipes that were traditional, nut-free, gluten-free, and even a grain free (Paleo) recipe. Next, I gathered all my ingredients for a marathon cookie making session…
Ready, Set, BAA-KE! (Oh come on. I can't be the only person who's binge watched the Great British Baking Show, right?)
- The Traditional: The "traditional" recipe I used comes from Dr. Momma. You can find her full recipe here. This is actually the recipe I personally used after my last birth. It contains, wheat flour, oats, nut butter, flax, brewer's yeast, chocolate chips, and nuts.
- The Nut-Free: This recipe is also from Dr. Momma and can be found here (listed as the second recipe, "Momma's Milk Cookies") . Because most of the lactation cookie recipes I came across contained nuts (which are usually added for their caloric and healthy fat content), it was important for me to find a "no-nut" alternative for those breastfeeding parents (or parents with babies) who cannot tolerate nuts. This recipe actually called for walnuts, but since that was the only "nut" ingredient, I simply eliminated it.
- The Gluten-Free: This recipe is from Mama Natural (love her!) and can be found here. Since the birth of my last baby almost four years ago, our family has fallen into the "parenting with allergies" crowd. Both of my sons are gluten free, and one is also dairy free. I know many other parents and families face this challenge as well. This recipe contains gluten free oats, gluten free brewers yeast, fennel seed, and nut butter.
- The Paleo: This recipe comes from the beloved Paleo Parents and is found here. It's not only dairy free; it's soy free an grain free too! This recipe contains anise seed, almond flour, flax meal, a variety of nuts, dates, and chocolate chips.
*A note about chocolate chips: Many brands of chocolate chips contain soy products. Many breastfeeding parents or their babies are sensitive to soy. If you fall into this category, you can still enjoy chocolate in your cookies! Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips are soy free, as well as dairy, gluten, and nut free…and no, they don't taste like cardboard. They are actually good, and are the only brand of chocolate chips that our family uses now.
So, enough about the recipes. You're likely here to find out which one is the best, right? As I mentioned, the moms at the New Moms Group brought their appetites and I brought in my plethora of cookies. We had about 10 moms (plus two doulas) as taste testers. The overall reaction was very positive (I mean, because, cookies, right?). The results actually surprised me. The overall winner was.....
The Paleo (grain-free) Recipe!
Second Place went to the the nearly-equally-liked Gluten Free recipe . The taste testers noted that they like the fluffy texture, moistness, and sweetness of the paleo cookie. Because the Gluten Free cookie lacked the chocolate chips of the other recipes, a few moms compared it to a traditional oatmeal cookie. They said they enjoyed the texture and didn't even miss the chocolate (I KNOW). Both of these recipes contained a special ingredient, anise and fennel. I think the flavor of these herbs offered something different maybe that's what appealed to the testers.
The Nut Free recipe took Third Place. Of the moms who liked it, they said it was nicely moist and had good texture. Others said it was not their favorite, but that it wasn't terrible.
In last place, to my ultimate surprise, was the Traditional Recipe. I was sure this would be the most popular, as it was the one I enjoyed a few years ago, and has been popular with my friends and family. A few taste testers said this cookie was just very standard and predictable, and really, what you would expect from a chocolate chip cookie. None of them terribly disliked this recipe, but perhaps the texture and flavors of the other varieties were better overall.
The Bottom Line
While this was a fun taste testing experiment, there are currently no evidence-based studies that lactation cookies actually increase your milk supply. And no, they will not make you spontaneously start lactating if you currently aren't breastfeeding an infant (Partners who are currently eating these cookies while hiding in the pantry, I'm looking at you).
However, they are higher in calories and healthy fat, which your body does need to to produce a healthy milk supply after your baby is born. They also contain specific ingredients which are thought to be related to milk production (oats, flax, brewers yeast, and herbs like anise and fennel).
The bottom line is this: they are a great one-handed snack that you can munch on while you are nursing your baby. You could enjoy them as an accompaniment to your afternoon moment of peace. These cookies (all forms of them) are tasty treat. Taking a few minutes to enjoy a cookie (or two) and a cup of tea could be just the quick relaxing stress reliever you need. Because there is science that tells us that when our bodies are relaxed and happy, they function more efficiently.
If you suspect you are having true difficulties with supply issues and breastfeeding, please don’t try to diagnose and treat yourself with lactation cookies (no matter how deliciously tempting it is to do so). Seek out a trained lactation consultant (ahem, like our very own IBCLC, Victoria) who can assess and work with you to create a road map to overcome hurdles and set you on the road to success.