My first exposure to lactation cookies was at the checkout counter of my neighbourhood baby store in Manhattan. Seizing every opportunity to indulge after having my second baby, I purchased 2 prepackaged cookies. At home, I broke open the package, took a bite and was disappointed. They seemed to be tasteless and have a soggy sort of texture. I didn’t eat the second one even though it was expensive.
Since that time, I had written them off (plus, I stopped nursing my second child at 18 months so there was really no need to pursue the cookie thing any further). It wasn’t until I was away at a girl’s weekend that the subject came up again. Two of my friends had just had babies and another one was expecting. Our conversation, which started off with the essentials of nursing became more animated when my friend revealed that she had tried a lactation cookie recipe that created “boobies that released milk like Niagara Falls!”
Milk supply is always an issue when babies are first born. It often takes several days for milk to come in and it can be a bit sporadic if there have been complications (illness, poor latch, etc.). It can also be an issue if the mother is exhausted (and who isn’t after having a baby) or losing weight too rapidly. Also, sometimes it is nice to have a little extra to pump or store for days that are especially hectic. Let’s move on and get to the nitty gritty…
First off, what are lactation cookies? Lactation cookies are a treat for nursing mamas to increase their milk supply. I urge you to consider them as a treat and to continue to eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water. The active ingredient in most lactation cookie recipes is brewer’s yeast which has a whole host of nutritional benefits including chromium, selenium and iron (debittered brewer’s yeast does not contain chromium). Brewer’s yeast is different from baker’s yeast or nutritional yeast. These other types of yeast should not be used as a substitute. The addition of oatmeal and flaxseed are also thought to increase milk supply.
Should I just eat brewer’s yeast instead? I would advise against this. It is very bitter. I have designed this recipe to take away the bitterness or rather, disguise it. In addition, I required the recipe to be delicious because, yes, it is a cookie!! The addition of flaxseed, oatmeal, nuts and cranberries also adds some additional nutritional benefits and fibre.
Side effects of brewer’s yeast? The initial reaction from my family when I told them I was making lactation cookies was to avoid my kitchen like the plague! The men were afraid of developing breasts but I can assure you that lactation cookies are safe to consume without this sort of side effect. Real side-effects for mother and baby may include diarrhea and colic-like symptoms for baby. Stop taking if this occurs to you and/or your baby.
Do these cookies actually work?! There is no scientific evidence to prove that eating lactation cookies work- though, it would make for a good study! (hint, hint academics out there). This recipe includes many of the ingredients (brewer's yeast, oatmeal and flaxseed) that have been reported to help with milk supply by breastfeeding mamas. If anything, they are a fun treat to bring to a mama and baby get together!
The Best Lactation Cookies
Makes: 2- 3 dozen depending on the size of the cookies
Time: Prep time (25 minutes) + resting time (2 hours) + baking time (10-12 minutes per batch)
113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
150 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
150 g (3/4 cup) brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp brewer's yeast*
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp whole milk
230 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
150 g (1 1/2 cup) quick-cooking oats
90 g (3/4 cup) dried cranberries
65 g (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
300 g (2 cups) mini chocolate chips
70 g (heaping ½ cup) milk chocolate, chopped
1. Cream the butter and sugars in a stand mixer or using a hand blender. Beat the eggs in one at a time until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, brewer’s yeast, ground flaxseed and milk and mix well.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine. Add the orange zest, oats, cranberries, pecans and chocolate mixing at low speed (or “stir” speed on a stand mixer) until just incorporated.
4. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Scoop out mounds of cookies dough using a small ice cream scoop (about 1 ½ tbsp) measure out all of the cookie dough and place on the cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°C (180°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place dough mounds on the sheet, giving them enough room to spread while baking. Bake 8-12 minutes. The cookies should look slightly undercooked when you pull them out of the oven. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack.
Enjoy with a giant glass of milk or grab and go as most moms have to do!
* Brewer's yeast can be purchased at health food stores or online.
**All opinions are my own. I am not a health professional so please consult your doctor if you have questions about breastfeeding, nutrition and health of your baby.
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