Question: I’m worried that I’m not producing enough breast milk. My friend told me that ‘lactation cookies’ would help. Will eating oatmeal cookies really increase milk supply?
Answer: In a word, no. Although you can Google “lactation cookies” and find tons of recipes, there isn’t any evidence based research that they do anything at all to increase your milk supply.
Even though some breastfeeding moms produce more milk than their baby needs, most nursing moms will worry about whether they have enough milk at one time or another during their breastfeeding experience.
Unless they’re pumping, nursing moms can’t tell exactly how much milk their babies receive at a feeding. This can make them feel very insecure about whether their little ones are really getting enough to eat.
With information, support, encouragement, and determination, the vast majority of women are able to produce more than enough breast milk in order for their babies to gain weight and thrive.
However, there are some very real problems that can have a negative effect on milk supply. Mothers who are separated from their baby, who supplement with formula, or overuse pacifiers may experience a drop in milk production. Medical issues in the mother like yeast infections, breast surgery or anatomical issues like hypoplasia may cause supply issues. Medical problems in the baby like thrush, tongue-tie, or cleft palate can make it difficult for infants to nurse effectively enough to stimulate sufficient milk production. Any time there is a real concern about adequate milk production, especially if baby isn’t gaining enough weight, both mom and baby should be evaluated by an IBCLC or La Leche League Leader to rule out factors that may contribute to low supply.
‘Galactogogue” is the medical term for anything that increases milk supply. The most commonly used “natural” galactogogue is Fenugreek. The other is plain old oatmeal, even though there is zero evidence that it works.
As a lactation consultant, I wish something as simple and inexpensive as oatmeal did work to boost milk production. That would make it so easy, but if eating oatmeal cookies really increased milk supply, nursing moms would be plump and happy and nobody would have to worry about producing enough milk and they wouldn’t need spend time reading articles like this.
When it comes to oatmeal, the placebo effect can’t be ruled out. Taking a placebo means that the galactogogue, whether oatmeal or brewer’s yeast or flaxseed or placenta encapsulation, works not because of any secret ingredients, but because moms simply believe it will help – so sometimes it does.
Eating oatmeal in lactation cookies or as a breakfast cereal certainly won’t hurt. It’s nutritious, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and has no real side effects (except possibly weight gain – each cookie can contain 250 calories).
So why not try it? Even though there is no evidence that it works, many moms swear by it, which explains why Pinterest has so many recipes for oatmeal cookies.
There are several companies that sell lactation cookies. I was shocked not only by the unrealistic and unproven claims the companies made, but also by their prices. One popular company charges $26.99 for TEN cookies.
Wow. In my professional opinion, that’s pretty steep for something that’s very unlikely to do anything to increase your supply.
If you want to try oatmeal lactation cookies, I strongly suggest that you go find a recipe and make them yourselves. I recommend adding chocolate chips, because I’m a big chocolate fan, and who knows – maybe that will increase supply as well. Based on the evidence, it is just as likely to work as eating oatmeal.
Anne Smith, IBCLC