Why this podcast?
You know by now that this podcast features on here regularly. It’s evidence-based and covers everything you could want to know about pregnancy and birth plus a whole lot of postpartum stuff too.
Check it out!
Why this episode?
I’ve always been curious about lactation foods but have never really looked into them properly.
Time to learn more methinks!
I will say that the episode and, therefore, this post, do not provide nice, clear cut answers – because there really aren’t any. Rather it gives you something to think about and some great resources to delve into
I love that the host, Vanessa Merten, begins by saying that the absolute best way to increase your milk supply is milk removal. The more milk your baby drinks, the more milk you will make.
She also underlines that, while it is hard to know how much milk your baby is drinking if you are breastfeeding, the best way to know if it is enough is by keeping an eye on their weight gain and growth.
No, these are not characters from Star Wars. They are substances that are believed to lead to an increase in milk supply. Lactation smoothies and cookies contain a few of these but, do they work?
Vanessa warns us that there is limited knowledge on the effectiveness of galactagogues but some research does exist.
One study surveyed a group of women who used galactagogues and, although the women said they found that their milk supply increased, the study was not a scientific one.
The women involved were simply surveyed after consuming the lactation foods so there could have been an element of placebo effect present.
A separate review of a range of studies on herbal and pharmaceutical galactagogues drew mixed results on the effectiveness of their increasing milk supply.
It is almost impossible, however, to carry out a truly scientific study where other factors in the diet and environment as well as, of course, how often and how long a baby feeds, can be tightly controlled.
This is the most common galactagogue and has some more research surrounding it. This article explores the effectiveness of it in more detail but again, the results are mixed.
MOBI (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues) has a great article which explores the effectiveness of a variety of lactogenic foods and herbs.
To further muddy the waters, Vanessa points out that many of the recipes for lactation cookies don’t even include the ingredients covered in the studies.
Typical ingredients include coconut oil, oats, brewer’s yeast, almond butter and dates. While these are all healthy and can provide solid amounts of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, there isn’t really any evidence that they can increase milk supply.
Vanessa admits that she has not tried lactation cookies herself and so has no personal experience to speak from. She does say that if she was going to make them then this recipe from Wellness Mama would be the one she would use.
Apart from healthy ingredients like coconut oil, flax seeds, dates, oatmeal and almonds they also include fenugreek and anise seeds.
I find it so, so important that Vanessa underlines that, if you find you have a low milk supply, lactation cookies or other galactagogue rich foods should not be your first point of call.
Reaching out to a lactation consultant, a local La Leche League or the hospital where you birthed your baby should be your first step.
To wrap up
I realise that this post was not the most helpful in terms of providing clear cut research and information but, sometimes, that’s just how it is. I hope it at least gave you some food for thought and, if you do try lactation cookies, watch that you are not throwing in a ton of sugar.
If you have tried lactation cookies, smoothies or other galactagogue rich foods I’d love to hear your experience.
Until next time!
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.