Lactation Cookies Are Apparently A Thing – So Should Breastfeeding Mums Be Eating Them?

Nigella Lawson says she's never heard of them – so we asked the experts.

“Lactation cookies” may sound like two words arbitrarily placed together – but apparently they’re a thing to “boost breastfeeding mums’ milk supply”.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of them, because Nigella Lawson hadn’t either – claiming she simply drank stout when breastfeeding.

And if there’s a food thing Nigella Lawson hasn’t heard of, it’s probably not that well-known, right?

The topic came up on Twitter after food editor Stella Parks explained that her sister-in-law had asked her to make lactation cookies – which was “1000% outside my wheelhouse,” as Parks put it.

So what are they, then? They’re cookies made with ingredients high in galactagogues. “Galactagogues are substances that aid the initiation and maintenance of milk supply at a level which meets the needs of the baby,” explains the UK Breastfeeding Network.

Foods considered to be galactagogues include oats, barley, yeast, and flax, as well as nuts, spices, and herbs. There are also less-delicious foods purported to be galactagogues – nettles, for instance.

Breastfeeding mums can also be medically-prescribed chemical galactagogues if they’re struggling with their milk supply.

Parks’ cookies may look and sound delicious – “malted oatmeal cookies loaded with nuts, chocolate chips, and spices” – but are they likely to actually aid a mother who might be struggling to breastfeed? Clare Livingstone, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, wasn’t so sure.

“There are no special foods as such to eat when breastfeeding,” she told HuffPost UK. “What is important is to eat as healthily when breastfeeding as when pregnant. It is important that the diet contains a good and varied nutritional balance as with any healthy diet.

“Cookies are also fine, but as with any healthy diet, in moderation. Also, it is important when breastfeeding to have a good fluid intake,” she added.

In the past, Guinness and Vitamin B supplements were advocated widely to boost milk supply, but there is “limited research evidence to support its effectiveness”, according to The Breastfeeding Network.

If you’re looking to boost your milk supply, the NHS advises:

:: Feed your baby as often as they want and for as long as they want.

:: Express some breast milk after feeds once breastfeeding is established.

:: Offer both breasts at each feed and alternate which breast you start with.

:: Keep your baby close to you and hold them skin to skin. This will help you spot signs your baby is ready to feed early on, before they start crying.

:: Breastfeed at night because this is when you produce more hormones (prolactin) to build up your milk supply.

:: It’s worth noting that in the early weeks, “topping up” with formula milk or giving your baby a dummy can lower your milk supply.