Do Lactation Cookies, Brownies and Biscuits Work?

The general claim lactation brownies, biscuits, cookies, etc. make is that they can help you make more breastmilk. If you’re a new mum struggling to produce enough milk that’s, to say the very least, a compelling proposition. But it’s also a proposition that hasn’t been scientifically proven.  “We’ve scoured the research, but only came up with anecdotal evidence – not clinical support,” says Krista Maas de Villiers, founder and CEO of Nunona energy balls, which are formulated to help create better quality breast milk. “Do lactation cookies really work? Want to increase your quantity? The only thing proven to work is to increase your frequency of breastfeeding or pumping.”

But what you eat matters. 

“What you eat as a new mum is important because some nutrients can’t be supplied by your body, they have to come from your diet. These nutrients are vitamin A, B6, B12, folate, iodine, selenium and some fatty acids. Two important nutrients for babies developing brain and body are B vitamins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids,” says Maas de Villiers.

Allyson Murphy, an international board certified lactation consultant in private practice in NJ as Lactation Ally agrees. “I wish that lactation cookies worked. If that were the case, I’d be a baker instead of a lactation consultant!” Since we brought up good nutrition, it’s also worth underlining that most lactation cookies (and bars, brownies, bites, etc.) are not only pretty expensive, but they’re usually loaded in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed flour. “Plus, they often have claims on how much milk they are ‘guaranteed’ to help you make that are just bogus and not based on science,” says Murphy.

That said, Murphy notes that anecdotally some parents find porridge helps to increase their supply. “That’s the main ingredient of most cookies. They also often contain flaxseed and brewer’s yeast, which are thought to help with supply. Again, there’s not much hard data to back this up. Likely you can get the same effects from lactation cookies as you can from a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, topped with a bit of flax seed and brewer’s yeast.”

Of course if you want a cookie — eat a cookie! “You’re working hard to feed this tiny human and deserve to treat yourself sometimes, but eat them because they’re yummy, not because they’ll increase supply,” says Murphy.

Low milk supply is often caused by one or more factors singled out by Murphy below:

  • Poor latch and baby’s inability to remove milk (often due to lip and tongue ties)
  • Not feeding often enough (this can happen when parents don’t know how to read baby’s hunger cues or are trying to feed on a schedule rather than on demand)
  • Not pumping to remove milk regularly if baby is having trouble latching (regular, frequent milk removal around the clock is the best way to build and maintain a good milk supply)
  • The parent has insufficient glandular tissue (known as IGT, this means they don’t have enough milk making “stuff” in their breast/chest. Many folks who have this can make some milk and have great nursing relationships while supplementing with donor milk or formula)
  • The parent has hormonal issues, which can affect supply (hormones play a huge role in milk production and sometimes medications can help correct things like thyroid issues)

Bottom line: If you’re worried about supply, skip the cookies and instead see a lactation consultant who can check your baby’s latch, understand how and when you’re feeding, learn your medical history and help you come up with a care plan to increase milk supply.

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