This was Becca Jackson’s unusual plan for when she went into labor last year: Instead of doing breathing exercises or relaxing stretches, the 34-year-old Arlingtonian would tie on her apron and bake cookies.
It wasn’t so much about the cookies. It was more about the milk.
The recipe Jackson had ready was for galactagogue cookies, also known as lactation cookies, which are treats packed with natural ingredients known as galactagogues that are believed to boost milk production.
“I wanted to give my child only breast milk, with no supplementing by formula,” she says. “So I wanted to do everything possible to ensure that my supply would be high.”
Jackson’s labor ended up being too intense for her to hang out in the kitchen like she’d hoped, but she whipped up a batch of the cookies when she returned from the hospital with her son, Coleman, a few days later. And her milk production has been steady for the nine months since, which she partially attributes to the cookies.
“A lot of factors go in to making milk,” says Nancy Mallin, a lactation consultant with the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington (breastfeedingcenter.org). “Frequency of feeding and skin-to-skin contact are the biggest ones. However, some mothers need help, so we turn to galactagogues.”
Different cultures prescribe various natural remedies for making milk. Europeans have traditionally recommended brewer’s yeast and flax; malanga root is used in the Philippines; shatavari is popular in India; and fenugreek is employed worldwide. Mallin has found that women who sprinkle the ingredients in cookie dough have seen results.
(She does add a cautionary note: “People shouldn’t be ingesting herbs willy-nilly. For example, fenugreek can aggravate asthma, so check with a medical professional before you start using anything new.”)
Many women who use doulas and midwives, as well as the mommy blogger set, have embraced the cookie concept.
“It’s about providing supportive herbs and nutrients,” says nutritionist Ami Karnosh, founder of the Bothell, Wash.-based Yummy Mummy Cookies (yummymummycookies.com), available online.
They’re also a sweet reward for new moms, as most galactagogue cookie recipes mask their herbaceous ingredients with generous helpings of brown sugar, dark chocolate chips and peanut butter. After months of limiting her sugar intake during pregnancy, Jackson says, the prospect of dessert was appealing.
There’s an emotional component to the cookies, too. “It’s all about comfort in the immediate postpartum period,” says Whitney Pinger, director of midwifery at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, which helped deliver Jackson’s baby. The practice always sends new mothers home with a recipe for galactagogue cookies.
Dads looking for a pick-me-up may indulge as well, although Karnosh says many men refuse to nibble “because they think they’ll make their breasts bigger.” They won’t.
That isn’t an issue at Jackson’s house, where there’s now a cookie jar on the counter allowing for easy access at any time of day. “My husband and I are probably neck and neck for who eats the most,” she says.
Zephyr’s Galactagogue Cookies
My wife and I received a recipe for galactagogue cookies from the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates after the midwifery delivered our son, Zephyr, early this year. I added applesauce to make the cookies more moist and peanut butter to suit my wife’s tastes. She loves them and is convinced they boosted her milk supply. Now, whenever a friend of ours gives birth, I’ll drop off a batch of galactagogue cookies as a welcome-home gift. Of course, whenever I do that, my wife insists I bake enough so she can enjoy them, too.
Ingredients (Try to use organic ingredients wherever possible)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup oats
1⁄2 cup ground flax seeds
1⁄2 cup nutritional yeast (not baker’s yeast, but the yellow flakes)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄2 cup applesauce
8 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Makes 40 cookies
Mix the flour, oats, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, baking soda and salt.
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla, then beat in the eggs, applesauce and peanut butter one at a time. Combine the two mixes, then add dark chocolate chips and walnuts.
Put batter in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Roll out ping-pong-sized balls and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 350 F for about 11 minutes until there’s light cracking in the surface of the cookies. Do not overbake; you want to keep them soft. Place on racks to cool. Enjoy with a large glass of cold organic milk after 20 minutes while cookies are still warm.