I have blessed to have been a dairy cow in another life and have never had supply issues. In fact, I have approximately 700 oz of breastmilk squirreled away in my deep freeze in the garage. I’m not sure why but I have a deep rooted fear that one day I’ll suddenly stop producing enough milk to feed my child, as insane as this sounds. But since starting my daughter on solids I have noticed a bit of a dip in my supply and I only seem to be pumping about a day’s worth rather than having enough to add to my freezer stash like I had been for the 5 previous months.
I had done a little bit of research while pregnant on galactagogues, or substances that promote milk supply, but thankfully hadn’t had to use any of the things I learned. But recently i had been asked by a friend how I had enough milk to be able to use extra milk in my homemade baby food recipes so I thought I would share what I know in case it helps her, or anyone else.
First, most women actually produce enough milk for their baby based on supply and demand. But if you have concerns or your baby isn’t gaining enough weight a consult with a good lactation consultant (LC) is invaluable! Check local hospitals, mommy groups, and milk banks for recommendations of LC’s in your area. They can help ensure that your baby has a good latch and offer a number of techniques and tricks to help promote a good supply, which may include nursing more frequently, pumping after feedings, or “power pumping.”
If you just wanted to boost your supply a bit here is a list of commonly recommended galactagogues that I’ve run across while doing my research. Always do your research to educate yourself on any side effects and always consult with a medical professional before using any herbs or supplements.
- Fenugreek – Fenugreek is probably the best known herbal supplement to boost milk supply. Fenugreek is a middle-eastern spice that comes from a plant in the pea family. It is found in capsule form as well as in tea. The tea may not be as strong as taking it in capsule form. It can be used in conjunction with Blessed Thistle. Warning: a common side effect is that it may make you smell like maple syrup, so if you are opposed to this smell you may want to avoid it.
- Blessed Thistle – Blessed Thistle is another really common herbal supplement recommended to help increase breastmilk production. Often recommended to be used in conjunction with Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle is highly regarded by the breastfeeding specialist, Jack Newman. Traditionally used to help with indigestion and with loss of appetite. Blessed Thistle is not the same thing as Milk Thistle, although both have been identified as galactagogues. Milk Thistle is more often used as a food (peeled, tender shoots) rather than an herbal supplement.
- Red Raspberry Leaf – Red Raspberry Leaf is a common ingredient in nursing teas and tinctures. It is high in vitamins and minerals, including niacin (in the B Vitamin family). Also known as a uterine toner it can help the uterus return to it’s normal size immediately following birth. Some recommend Red Raspberry Leaf to help support uterine health while trying to conceive as well as to prepare for birth after 40+ weeks gestation.
- Chasteberry (Vitex) – Chasteberry is actually a prolactin-inhibitor usually recommended to help balance hormones but has been proven through repeated studies to increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers. This may be an ideal choice if you are struggling with hormonal imbalances while breastfeeding, including PMS. Note: Chasteberry may start menses in nursing women so avoid if you are relying on lactational amenorrhea as a birth control method.
- Other less common herbal galactagogues include: Fennelseed(may help with let down and to ease mother’s digestive issues), Goat’s Rue, Alfalfa (avoid if you have an auto-immune disorder), Wild Asparagus, Nettle and Hops.
Food and Ingredients:
- Oatmeal – Lactation consultants will often recommend that you start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal, whole or steel cut oats, because they have more of the nutrients to help boost milk supply than instant oatmeal.
- Brewer’s Yeast – Brewer’s Yeast contains iron, protein, and B vitamins, as well as chromium, selenium and other trace minerals that help boost milk supply. In addition, Brewer’s Yeast may help decrease fatigue and fight off the “baby blues.” Brewer’s Yeast may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea in some women and/or colic-like symptoms in babies if used too often. **The combination of Brewer’s Yeast and Hops in beer may be why you hear some women say they “breastfed their babies on beer!” You often see women in online chat groups recommend that you have a good beer to relax at the end of the day. However,alcohol may actually inhibit milk production and if you drink enough it can pass through your breastmilk, so drink sparingly, if at all.
- Flaxseed – Flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, a plant-based compound that can mildly mimic estrogen and is believed to increase milk supply. In addition, it is a great source of fiber, which nursing mothers also need. It can easily be ground up and added to oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, smoothies, etc.
- Other foods include: Fennel, dark leafy greens, other whole grains (including barley, millet, and quinoa), chickpeas (break out the hummus!), nuts (especially almonds), sesame seeds, ginger, and papaya.
Store bought products:
- Mother’s Milk Tea – Mother’s Milk Tea is often recommended by nursing mothers. It has several of the ingredients mentioned above, including Fennel Fruit, Anise Fruit, Coriander Fruit, Fenugreek Seed, Blessed Thistle herb, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbana, and Marshmallow root. Some people don’t like it because it has a slight licorice taste and odor, however. Check it out here: Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicines.
I had been gifted some Brewer’s Yeast by another mother and had been holding on to it for awhile without having used it because I didn’t have all the ingredients for cookies. But over my 4 day holiday weekend I got a hankering for some chocolate chip cookies and went to the store just to make some! While certainly not the most healthy recipe these were really yummy and a big hit in my house (the hubby approves but was a little weirded out when I mentioned that they were “lactation cookies” lol). I may research how to make a healthier recipe in the future since we have been trying to get back into a more clean eating routine lately. But here is the recipe I used.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp flax seed meal
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups oats
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2-4 tbsp brewer’s yeast (I only used 2)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Mix the flax seed meal and water and let sit for 3-5 minutes
- Using hand mixer, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar well. Add eggs, vanilla and flax seed mixture and beat until well blended.
- Sift together flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda and salt.
- Add dry ingredients to butter mixture
- Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
- Spoon mixture into greased baking sheet approximately 2″ apart.
- Bake for 12 minutes.
- Let cool before removing from baking sheet.
Makes approximately 60 cookies (if you don’t eat the batter – I think I got like 55 out of mine…)
Original recipe from Food.com
I found that my supply did increase over the weekend. In fact, this is what happens when you eat 5 (holds head in shame) lactation cookies before bed, skip pumping because the bed was calling your name, and your almost 6 month old unexpectedly sleeps through the night for the first time in months…
And yes that’s my LEFT supply on the left (like most women, my left breast has trouble keeping up with my right). That’s how I know the cookies worked!
Do you have a tried and true lactation cookie recipe? Share it below!