If you are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed, chances are that you’ve spent a good chunk of time researching milk supply topics and perhaps wondering if you’ll make enough milk to feed your hungry baby. Breastfeeding is one biological process that is particularly taxing on the body, and the best thing a breastfeeding parent can do to support their milk supply and their baby’s health is to eat healthy and wholesome foods.
Galactagogues and lactogenic foods have been used throughout history as a way to increase breastmilk supply. More recently, lactation cookies have come in as a delicious and nutritious way for breastfeeding parents to naturally support their breastmilk supply and quality.
Technically speaking, there is no right or wrong time to enjoy lactation cookies. At the end of the day, they are just cookies with a few extra healthy ingredients and can be enjoyed at any time, even when you aren’t nursing or expecting.
What Are Lactation Cookies and What Do They Do?
Lactation cookies are special cookies made with lactogenic ingredients which are thought to increase your body’s levels of hormones that are related to breastfeeding, particularly prolactin and oxytocin. These ingredients are also particularly nutrient-dense and can help ensure that your breastmilk contains the proper nutrients your baby needs.
Although not much formal research has been done on the effects of lactogenic foods on breastmilk supply, many parents find that incorporating lactogenic foods into their diet helps increase their breastmilk supply. While eating lactation cookies can boost your milk supply to a certain degree, they will not have such a profound effect to the point where they cause your milk supply to double.
When to Start Eating Lactation Cookies?
There is no “right” time to start eating lactation cookies, except for what feels right to you. Some breastfeeding parents begin eating lactation cookies shortly after giving birth to help boost their milk supply from the beginning. Some parents chose to use them only if they experience a drop in their milk supply.
Some sources recommend that expecting parents should start eating lactation cookies 2 weeks before they expect their baby to come. The idea being that eating the cookies will help in establishing your milk supply and help fortify your breastmilk with the nutrients your baby needs.
You can begin eating lactation cookies at any point in your breastfeeding journey and continue eating them for as long as you nurse. On the flip side, you can also stop eating them at any time if you feel like you are having an oversupply of breastmilk.
What Ingredients are Found in Lactation Cookies?
Lactation cookies contain nutrient-dense ingredients such as oats, barley, fennel, flaxseeds, and brewer’s yeast. Recipes for lactation cookies also contain typical cookie ingredients, such as flour, eggs, fat, and sugar, which can be adjusted or substituted based on your dietary preferences.
- Oats are already a common addition in regular cookies, being rich in fiber and low in sugar. They contain beta-glucan and saponins that stimulate the production of prolactin, the hormone whose main function is to aid in milk production. Oats also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid used in protein synthesis. Tryptophan also functions in melatonin and serotonin production, 2 hormones that help regulate sleep and arousal patterns.
- Brewer’s yeast, as the name suggests, is an ingredient used in beer making. It is a great source of protein, iron, and zinc, as well as B-complex vitamins. While there aren’t many studies on brewer’s yeast a lactogenic food, many breastfeeding parents report seeing a difference in their milk supply.
- Fennel seeds can be added to baked goods raw or roasted. The seeds contain an oil known as anethole, which contains phytoestrogens that can increase prolactin levels. Because of anethole’s anti-inflammatory effects, fennel has also historically been used to treat breast inflammation caused by mastitis.
- Barely is a rich source of beta-glucan, which as mentioned earlier, helps to stimulate prolactin production. Barley grains also contain iron, fiber, selenium, and manganese, which are important minerals found in breast milk. Malt syrup, which is made from sprouted barley grains, is high in beta-glucan and can be used as a less sweet alternative to honey and maple syrup.
- Flaxseeds contain plant estrogens known as phytoestrogens which can increase breastmilk production. Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid which contributes to the synthesis of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA in the body.
How Often to Eat Lactation Cookies?
It usually takes between 3 and 6 hours for the food you eat to appear in your breastmilk. Because of this, some breastfeeding parents choose to eat lactation cookies at least 3 hours before they nurse to produce the greatest effect on their milk quantity and quality.
Lactation cookies can also be eaten at any time throughout the day as a healthy snack or as a dessert after meals. Some manufacturers will also indicate when, how many, and how often their lactation cookies should be eaten to produce the greatest effect on milk supply.
Of course, how often you eat these cookies is still completely up to you and what works best for you. Lactation cookies contain natural ingredients and are highly unlikely to cause harm, regardless of how many or how few of them you eat.
How Long Do Lactation Cookies Take to Work?
The amount of time it takes to see results after eating lactation cookies depends on a variety of factors. The time it takes may also vary from person to person, as well as whether you are exclusively nursing, exclusively pumping, or a combination of both.
Lactation cookies may contain various lactogenic ingredients which take varying times to take effect. Ingredients such as oats may take as little as 2 hours to take effect, while fennel and brewer’s yeast can take up to 48 hours, and flaxseed and flaxseed oil can take up to a week.
For lactation cookies to impact your breastmilk supply, they must be taken consistently daily. Eating them just once will not be enough to create a noticeable impact on your breastmilk supply.
Will Lactation Cookies Fix Low Milk Supply Issues?
While lactation cookies may help increase your milk supply, they will not cure low supply issues on their own. Because your body produces breastmilk on a basis of supply and demand, the most definite way of increasing and maintaining milk supply is to nurse frequently and use a breast pump in between nursing sessions.
Lactation cookies work best when eaten alongside regular nursing and pumping. The more frequently you remove milk and fully empty your breasts, the greater the impact of the lactation cookies will be on your milk supply.
If you are having supply issues even with frequent nursing and pumping, you may be suffering from a chronic low milk supply. Certain medications such as antihistamines and birth control pills, medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and some thyroid issues, and even feeding problems such as a shallow latch can affect milk supply. It’s worth a visit to your doctor or a lactation specialist if you find that you are having trouble with a low milk supply.
The right time to start eating lactation cookies depends on you. You can choose to start eating them during your pregnancy, after giving birth, or at any point during your breastfeeding period. They must be eaten consistently to produce a noticeable effect on your breastmilk supply.
Lactation cookies are perfectly safe and healthy, provided you are not allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients in them. They can serve as snacks and desserts to be eaten at any time during the day and can be eaten at specific times to increase milk supply while nursing.
While the ingredients in lactation cookies may help boost your breastmilk production, they will not establish or boost your milk supply without regular expression of breastmilk. Aim to nurse or pump at least 8 times a day to help establish and boost your milk supply better.