What are Galactagogues and Lactation Cookies and Do They Work?

Galactagogues and lactation cookies, oh my! Maybe you’ve seen recipes on your favorite blog for “lactation cookies” or maybe you’ve seen ads for oatmeal cookies that promise to increase your milk supply. But do they really work? Lactation cookies include ingredients that are considered “galactagogues.” Galactagogues may help increase milk supply. There’s little concrete evidence, but they still could be helpful for some mommas. We know that the best way to increase milk supply is to remove milk from the breast more often. Nursing and pumping more helps your brain know to make more milk. If you’re doing this and want an extra boost, galactagogues may help. It’s important to remember that there’s little research about the safety of some supplements. Choosing a whole-food approach like a lactation cookie can be a good first step. These foods are good for you on their own – their possible galactagogue effects are a bonus! Also, it’s totally possible to make lactation cookies at home. If you don’t want to spend extra money, don’t worry – the homemade version is providing you all the same nutrition as the packaged version.

What’s in a Lactation Cookie?

The most common ingredient in lactation cookies is oatmeal. Oatmeal contains a compound that is thought to increase blood flow to the breast, allowing the blood to bring more nutrients to the milk cells. Most of the belief in oatmeal as a galactagogue comes from stories from generations of moms who felt like oatmeal increased their milk supply. Oatmeal, of course, has many other health benefits, such as being a source of vitamins and fiber. So there’s no downside to enjoying a bowl of oatmeal or a healthy oatmeal cookie. Other ingredients in lactation cookies often include flaxseed, coconut oil, or almond butter. It’s hard to tell if these can increase milk supply, but they have other nutritional benefits for you and your baby. Flaxseed is a great source of essential fatty acids, which also pass into your breastmilk. Essential fatty acids contribute to skin, heart, and brain health. Healthy fats such as almond butter are a source of condensed calories, which can be great for breastfeeding mommas, who need some extra fuel for their bodies! These cookies can be sources of great nutrients and may help your milk supply, but they should be consumed within a healthy diet. A combination of fruits, veggies, protein foods, and whole grains will make your body stronger in the long run. 

Can Herbs Help Me Make More Milk?

Herbal teas are wonderful on a chilly morning, but could they also be good for breastfeeding? Some mommas swear by their herbal supplements for making more milk. Some herbs are known as “galactagogues” – meaning they may help increase milk supply. The science is very inconclusive on these herbs, so here is what you need to know if you are interested in trying them!

Safety First

As with all supplements, the most important factor is safety. Herbs are a type of traditional medicine, but sometimes when they combine with pharmaceutical interventions, dangerous side effects can result. You should always discuss all the supplements, herbs, and medications you’re taking with your healthcare provider and lactation counselor. Medications such as blood thinners and insulin can interact with some herbs. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Fenugreek and goat’s rue are popular herbs used in traditional medicine as hypoglycemic to lower blood sugar. This means they can cause dangerously low blood sugar and fainting if used in excess.

Do Galactagogues Work?

Fenugreek is a common herbal galactagogue, and there’s is evidence to suggest it can work.  Fenugreek increases sweating of the glands, therefore, increases liquid in the mammary glands, which make milk. Much of the research we do have on herbs like fenugreek, milk thistle, and goat’s rue actually comes from animal studies. Some researchers wanted to figure out if these herbs can increase milk production in animals so they would produce more milk to sell. The herbs seemed to be effective in animals, but we don’t know if that translates to humans.

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Emily Sylvester

Emily Sylvester is the Founder & CEO of Mother of Fact. As a Licensed Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Mom of 3, she's helped thousands of families in many low/middle income communities feel confident and supported in their feeding journey. Her mission is to eliminate the deficit of equitable breastfeeding & formula feeding help for all households & healthcare systems.
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