Instead of paying $20 for lactation cookies, here’s how to make them

It’s been a long time since I was a breastfeeding mama, but I’m still an advocate for all things that support mother’s milk.

(Except those airport pods. I think those windowless containers do more to ostracize breastfeeding women than to support and normalize the experience, but that has nothing to do with food.)

Lactation cookies are one of many tricks up a mom’s sleeve to increase milk supply. That list, you’ll soon find, includes all kinds of foods, including beer, but the most popular form of edible lactation support are baked goods with ingredients such as brewer’s yeast, flaxseed, hemp seeds and oats.

A friend delivered homemade lactation cookies to me when I was on maternity leave with Avery, but six years ago felt like another era. Breastfeeding women were still being confronted by managers are restaurants and strangers at the mall, and you most definitely could not buy commercial lactation cookies.

These days, we hear about fewer incidents where moms who are feeding their kids are asked to leave an establishment or cover up, but moms still need all the support they can get to keep up that milk supply.

The Seattle-based Milkmakers is now selling lactation cookies and teas in grocery stores around the country, and earlier this week, I spotted them at H-E-B. “Cool! Lactation cookies!” was my first thought, followed half a second later by “But for $20? What’s in these things?”

Milkmakers is a Seattle-based company that sells lactation cookies and tea, but they are prohibitively expensive for many parents. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The cookies contain all the ingredients you’d find in one of the thousands of lactation cookie recipes on the internet, but they were so expensive, I struggled to imagine myself as a new mom spending $20 on a product I wasn’t convinced would work when I really needed that money for diapers or other groceries. There’s all kinds of scientific proof that even one lactation cookie can increase your milk supply, but they are inexpensive to make once you have some of the ingredients on hand.

Brewer’s yeast is the only ingredient you might have a hard time finding in a physical retail store. I hear mixed reports on whether nutritional yeast, which is more widely available and almost identical to brewer’s yeast, works as well, but you can buy it online for about $10-$15 for enough brewers’ yeast to make two kids’ worth of lactation cookies.

These lactation bars from Mary Makes Good contain ingredients that can boost a mom’s milk supply. Contributed by Mary Helen Leonard

My mama friend Mary Helen Leonard, whom I met through her food blog, Mary Makes Good, made a ton of lactation cookies (well, bars) when she was breastfeeding her son, and the recipe shows how easy — and inexpensive — they are to make.

When she first published the recipe, she joked that the cookies were so good that she had to (jokingly) forbid her husband from eating them all. They are also packed with nutrients, and Leonard, who is working on her second book, “The Naturally Handmade Mama,” for release early next year, recommends making extra and freezing them for visitors who are helping you during those first few weeks and months.

She uses a large baking dish to make this dough into a bar, but you could experiment with dropping them onto a sheet pan to make round cookies, too. The may bake quicker or take extra time if you use a different size pan as the thickness of the bars will change. Just watch them carefully as they bake, keeping an eye on the color and hardness of the cookies.

You can make lactation cookies for much less than buying them at the store. Or better yet, if you know someone who is breastfeeding, you can make these cookie bars for them and save them some time and money. Contributed by Mary Helen Leonard.

Baby Mama Postpartum/Lactation Cookie Bars

The cookie starts off with a classic sugar, flour and butter base, with a dose of iron-rich molasses. Whole oats, flax seeds, hemp hearts, brewer’s yeast and almond flour give the cookies a rich array of protein and nutrients. Dark chocolate chips are added for the shear pleasure of them. If you prefer, try swapping out the chocolate for raisins or another type of dried fruit.

2 tablespoons ground flax seed
4 tablespoons water
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses (blackstrap, if available)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup hemp hearts (hulled)
4 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flax seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for ten minutes — or until fluffy.
Add the soaked flax seeds, eggs, molasses and vanilla and mix until well blended. (Scrape the sides down before blending to make sure everything mixes evenly.)

Whisk together the whole wheat flour, almond flour, hemp hearts, brewer’s yeast, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients in two parts while mixing continuously on a slow speed. Mix until just combined. Add the oats and chocolate chips in on a slow speed. Mix until just combined.

Line a 10-inch-by-15-inch (4 quart) baking dish with parchment paper. Drop the cookie dough into the dish and do your best to spread it evenly across the dish – touch each side and corner. It doesn’t have to be completely even. It’s OK if it is a bit lumpy.

Bake the bars for about 30 minutes or until the bottom of the bars are a deep golden brown and the middle of the pan appears to be thoroughly baked. Rotate the pan about halfway through cooking. (You may need to bake for an extra 10 to 15 minutes if using gluten-free flour.) Remove the dish from the oven and allow the bars to cool for one hour before slicing them into bars. Fully cooled bars can be frozen for up to three months in airtight packaging. Makes about 28 bars.

— Mary Helen Leonard, Mary Makes Good

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