What Are 'Lactation Cookies' and Do They Work?

A nutritionist breaks down the ingredients in these treats meant to help nursing individuals boost their milk supply.

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If you're having trouble breastfeeding, you are not alone. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics explained 80% of mothers enrolled in the study reported difficulties breastfeeding.

Along with pain and trouble getting the baby to latch, low milk supply can be one of the most distressing concerns for nursing individuals. But many individuals swear that a special cookie (of all things) can work wonders, and they are popular on social media sites like Pinterest.

What Are Lactation Cookies?

Lactation cookies are cookies with specific ingredients aimed at increasing breastmilk supply. Nearly 60% of nursing individuals do not feel they make an adequate amount of breastmilk for their infants. As a result, many turn to lactation cookies in an effort to boost breastmilk supply.

So-called "lactation cookies" have been around for ages, but social media recipes like Miracle Milk Cookies and Coconut Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies have grown in popularity. And the cookies remain popular among Pinterest's top parenting searches.

Do Lactation Cookies Work?

Concerns over milk supply can add a significant amount of stress. And easing this stress through a milk-increasing cookie is a low risk solution. However, can these cookies actually help with supply?

"When used in conjunction with other methods, such as hydrating and ensuring you're eating enough, absolutely," Stephanie Middleberg, RD, founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City, said. And even if you don't notice an increase in your milk supply, the healthier recipes can't hurt: "Clean lactation cookies contain extremely nutritious ingredients for a nursing mother."

While there are theories as to why individuals see results after consuming lactation cookies, more research is needed to understand whether or not they provide a real benefit. Researchers at Indiana University completed a study in 2021 to evaluate the effectiveness of lactation cookies on breastmilk supply. However, the results have yet to be published.

One of the reasons some may see success with lactation cookies is due to ingredients that are galactagogues. Galactagogues are substances that increase breastmilk, per a study published in 2020 in the journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). The study was a systematic review that examined the existing literature about the effectiveness of galactagogues in term mother-infant pairs

Per the review study, numerous galactagogues exist, ranging from more common ingredients such as oats (a main ingredient in many lactation cookies), prescribed medications, and less commonly known ingredients such as moringa leaf.

Several lactation cookie recipes include four ingredients, each of which is touted for its milk-boosting properties: Oats, fenugreek, flaxseed meal, and Brewer's yeast. However, other variations of recipes exist.


Let's start with one of the ingredients you probably know best: Oats. They contain a high concentration of saponins, an immune-stimulating compound that may help increase levels of prolactin, a key hormone for milk production.

Oats are also packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, said Middleberg, making them a healthy choice regardless of whether or not you're nursing.

And, per the systematic review study, oats may help to stimulate mammary gland tissue, aiding in milk production.


Next up: Fenugreek. The seeds of this plant are rich in phytoestrogen, a compound that helps your body balance your estrogen levels, which in turn helps regulate prolactin levels for optimal milk production. Middleberg explained that fenugreek also enhances perspiration, which triggers your body's letdown reflex to release milk.

Per the systematic review study, fenugreek may aid milk production in different ways. However, if you have a peanut allergy, you may want to avoid this one as it may cause an allergic reaction.

Flaxseed Meal

Then there's flaxseed meal, which contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Not only are these healthy fats good for nursing individuals (they may protect against cardiovascular disease, for example), but they also give breast milk a nutritional boost.

"While omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for everyone, these concentrations in a mother's milk are essential for a baby's developing immune system," said Middleberg. "They are also thought to help prevent allergies."

However, LactMed explained that while flaxseed contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, only the type of omega-3 fatty acids known as ALA is transferred to the nursing baby via breastmilk. If the nursing individual is low in DHA (another form of omega-3), seafood or marine oils may boost the DHA content of breastmilk.

So, while flaxseed is not considered a galactagogue, it has nutritional benefits for the nursing baby and the individual nursing, per LactMed.

Brewer's Yeast

The fourth key cookie ingredient is Brewer's yeast. While there's no conclusive evidence that this yeast increases milk supply, it is chock-full of B vitamins and the trace minerals chromium and selenium. B vitamins may be essential for nursing individuals since "they're involved in many of the body's processes," Middleberg explained.

Other Foods for Nursing Individuals

Middleberg recommended filling your plate with dark leafy greens, carrots, sesame seeds, and foods containing fiber and protein. "[The combo] helps the body recover and satisfies a ravenous appetite," Middleberg explained.

And in addition to flaxseed, load up on other healthy fats like avocado, wild salmon, eggs, olive oil, nuts, and coconut oil. "Fat is really essential for many reasons," said Middleberg. "It's vital to baby's organ and brain development, and your own metabolism."

Nursing individuals may also want to get in on the bone broth trend, which involves simmering the bones of healthy animals with veggies, herbs, and spices. "Bone broth has been popping up everywhere, and for good reason," Middleberg said. "It's delicious and comforting and has become known as a bit of a cure-all, as it builds strong bones, boosts the immune system, improves digestion, and supports joints, hair, skin, and nails."

Last but definitely not least, make sure you drink plenty of water, urged Middleberg. After all, Middleberg pointed out, "breast milk is 70% water."

A Quick Review

While numerous galactagogues and other supplements exist that claim to boost milk supply, the systematic review study is clear that additional high-quality studies on the benefits (or lack of benefits) are needed. Lactation cookies may help increase your milk supply and may also provide you with the necessary calories and nutrients while nursing.

However, if you find that your milk supply is low, a healthcare provider familiar with lactation or an international board-certified lactation consultant are great resources to help you troubleshoot any concerns over milk production.

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3 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clinicaltrials.gov. Lactation cookie study.

  2. Foong SC, Tan ML, Foong WC, Marasco LA, Ho JJ, Ong JH. Oral galactagogues (Natural therapies or drugs) for increasing breast milk production in mothers of non‐hospitalised term infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020;2020(5):CD011505. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011505.pub2

  3. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Flaxseed.

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