Can Lactation Cookies Enhance Milk Production?


By: Dr. Nazeli Gevorgyan - January 6, 2024 - 7 Minute Read

Lactation Cookies | The Milky Box

In the world of new motherhood, lactation cookies have become the talk of the town, promising to ease worries about low milk supply. But are these sweet treats backed by evidence, or is it all just a tempting tale?


In this article, we will be discussing lactation cookies, exploring the popular belief in their effectiveness and uncovering the scientific evidence behind their impact on milk supply.

Common Breastfeeding

The World Health Organization strongly advises exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life as the gold standard of infant nutrition. Afterward, complementary foods can be introduced while continuing to nurse for up to two years.


According to the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, the main reason for early breastfeeding cessation is the perception of insufficient milk, where mothers believe their milk doesn’t adequately satisfy or nourish the infant.


Around 60% of nursing parents in the US don’t reach their personal breastfeeding goals, and 30-80% feel their milk is not enough to meet their infant’s nutritional requirements.

Dietary Hopes for Milk Supply 

Mothers concerned about their milk supply might turn to various methods such as consuming specific foods, drinks, and herbal galactagogues to boost milk production. However, both the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't recommend particular foods, beverages, or herbal supplements as there’s insufficient evidence regarding their safety and effectiveness in increasing milk production. 

Myths and Facts: Boosting Milk Supply with Lactation Cookies

The growing lactation products industry, including favorites like lactation cookies, often makes unverified claims supported by consumer testimonials about their benefits for lactation and maternal/infant health.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate the marketing of herbal products, and there is no mandatory requirement for research studies on their effects and safety. To ensure your well-being, it’s crucial to lean on evidence-based information. 


So, let’s approach these assertions critically and make informed choices.

What are the Common Ingredients in Lactation Cookies?

Lactation cookies are named for their ingredients (galactagogues) believed to increase breast milk production, such as oatmeal, flaxseed meal, fenugreek, brewer’s yeast, and blessed thistle extract. However, research on their effectiveness is limited.


Fenugreek is one of the most popular herbal galactagogues. The idea that fenugreek boosts milk production is mostly based on personal stories, and studies on its effectiveness have varied results. While fenugreek is considered safe in typical food amounts, uncertainties arise with larger doses. 


Potential side effects include allergic reactions, nausea for the mother, diarrhea for the baby, increased asthma symptoms, lower glucose levels for the mother, and a “maple syrup” smell in urine and sweat.

Do Lactation Cookies Work?

A recent study involving 176 women exclusively nursing 2-month-old infants compared lactation cookies with ingredients oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, flax seeds, and fenugreek (Oatmeal Raisin Milkmakers Lactation Cookie Bites, Munchkin Inc.) to cookies matched for weight, calories, and presentation but without these substances. Participants consumed one bag of cookies daily for 30 days and used an electric pump to express breast milk at the study’s beginning and end. The results showed no significant difference between the two types of cookies. 

Do Lactation Cookies Make You Gain Weight?

Whether store-bought or homemade, lactation cookies tend to be high in calories and sugar. This may hinder postpartum weight loss without offering substantial nutritional benefits compared to other foods, especially considering the global obesity epidemic.  

How to Know if You Have Low Milk Supply

If you ever worry about a low milk supply, it’s essential to consider that concerns often arise without a need for alarm. Refer to our article to understand when not to worry about your milk supply.


Check these signs to assess the effectiveness of your milk supply:


❖ Mostly regular feeding schedule (at least 8 times in 24 hours)


❖ Baby gaining weight appropriately


❖ Six or more wet diapers daily


❖ Baby swallowing milk during feeds


❖ Softer, emptier breasts after nursing


However, if your baby faces weight gain issues or appears dehydrated, several factors may be affecting your milk supply. These include infrequent nursing, latch problems, early introduction of solid foods, medications, lack of sleep, alcohol, smoking, past breast surgery, or certain medical conditions. Seeking advice from a doctor is recommended. You don’t have to give up breastfeeding, as these issues often can be addressed.

Signs of low milk supply | The Milky Box

How to Increase Your Milk Supply

Breast milk production depends on regularly and effectively emptying the breast, whether through baby feeding, hand expressing, or pumping. The more milk is removed, the more your body produces, following a natural supply-and-demand system. Regularly and thoroughly emptying the breast is supported by evidence for better milk production.


To enhance milk supply, focus on these tips instead of relying on uncertain lactation cookies:


★ Embrace early skin-to-skin contact with your baby, if possible.


★ Feed on demand, follow your baby’s cues. Your body adjusts to your baby's requirements; increased feeding leads to higher milk production.


★ Relax and massage your breasts before feeding.


★ Ensure a good latch during nursing.


★ Offer both breasts at each feeding.


★ Empty your breasts after feeding with hand expression or pumping, signaling your body to produce more milk.


★ Minimize bottle use in the early weeks.


★ Prioritize self-care with sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, and hydration.


★ Manage stress, as it can impact milk flow.


★ Consult your healthcare provider for the necessity of formula or expressed milk.

Tips to increase breastmilk supply | The Milky Box

What Other Foods Should Breastfeeding Moms Eat?

When breastfeeding, it’s crucial to have a well-rounded and nutritious diet to meet the demands on your body. Include all five food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein — on your plate. While incorporating “galactagogues” like whole grains, nuts, and legumes are beneficial, view them as part of an overall healthy diet, rather than the primary focus for milk production. Aim for half your plate to consist of fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains, opt for low-fat dairy, vary your protein sources, and limit caffeine and alcohol. Also, stay adequately hydrated, aiming for at least 16 cups (3.8 l) of water per day while breastfeeding. 

Optimal Nutrition | The Milky Box

Beyond the Hype of Lactation Cookies

Lactation cookies have no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness in increasing lactation. Depending solely on them without professional guidance can be misleading and lead to unnecessary expenses during a vulnerable period.


Every parent's journey is unique, and The Milky Box is dedicated to providing personalized and reliable nutritional information and support for your family.

References

1. Palacios, A. M. et al. (2023) ‘Effectiveness of lactation cookies on human milk production rates: a randomized controlled trial’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 117(5), pp. 1035–1042. doi: 10.1016/J.AJCNUT.2023.03.010.


2. Ryan, R. A. et al. (2023) ‘Use of Galactagogues to Increase Milk Production Among Breastfeeding Mothers in the United States: A Descriptive Study’, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 123(9), pp. 1329–1339. doi: 10.1016/J.JAND.2023.05.019.


3. Nice, F. J. (2011) ‘Common Herbs and Foods Used as Galactogogues’, ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition, 3(3), pp. 129–132. doi: 10.1177/1941406411406118.


4. Bazzano, A. N. et al. (2016) ‘A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding’, The Ochsner Journal, 16(4), p. 511.


5. Kent, J. C., Prime, D. K. and Garbin, C. P. (2012) ‘Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production’, Journal of obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing : JOGNN, 41(1), pp. 114–121. doi: 10.1111/J.1552-6909.2011.01313.X.


6. Grzeskowiak, L. E. (2021) ‘No evidence that fenugreek is more effective than placebo as a galactagogue’, Phytotherapy Research, 35(4), pp. 1686–1687. doi: 10.1002/PTR.6914.


7. ‘Fenugreek’ (2023) Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501779/


8. Breastfeeding Challenges | ACOG. Available at: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2021/02/breastfeeding-challenges


9. Can Certain Foods Increase Milk Supply? Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/foods-to-increase-milk-supply


10. Exclusive breastfeeding for optimal growth, development and health of infants. Available at: https://www.who.int/tools/elena/interventions/exclusive-breastfeeding

Disclaimer:


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.


Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.


Nazeli Gevorgyan is a medical doctor from Armenia, and is a researcher in the fields of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Nazeli is passionate with providing women and parents with reliable and high-quality information on healthy options for infant nutrition, breastfeeding, infant formula, and food. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, traveling, and pottery. 

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Reviewed by Suzanne Renee',

Infant Nutrition Expert

Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent.


Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full-time writer on the subject. 


In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and going to church.