Why I Don’t Recommend Lactation Cookies & Body Armor For Low Milk Supply

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Did someone recommend you try some lactation cookies, Body Armor, Gatorade, or herbal breastfeeding supplements to boost your milk supply? Here’s why you might not want to waste your time with these, and why you might not want to encourage others to use them, either. 

Low milk supply can creep up on you slowly, or it can develop suddenly. But either way, it’s pretty panic-inducing when it happens. 

And if it’s happening to you, you’re not alone! Low milk supply is an extremely common concern. 

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

Unfortunately, when you Google how to fix it, you’re going to see a lot of suggestions for a lot of solutions that are scientifically sketchy at best and, in many cases, just plain don’t work. 

Lactation foods, herbal supplements, smoothies and sports drinks like blue Gatorade and Body Armor are often touted as a breastfeeding parent’s first line of defense against low milk supply. These milk-boosting foods and drinks are collectively known as “galactagogues.” And many breastfeeding parents swear by them! 

“I ate these lactation cookies and noticed way more milk the next day!”
“Have you tried Body Armor? It boosts my supply every time.”
“I can pump so much more milk when I eat oatmeal and drink blue Gatorade.”

Now I’m NOT saying these parents are lying about their experiences. 

But I am saying that EVEN IF these lactation foods, herbal supplements, and sports drinks work, they will still be one of the very last things I recommend a breastfeeding parent try when combating low milk supply. Here’s why:

Lactation cookies

1) They can cause you to put off getting the right kind of help

If you suspect you have low milk supply, you need support, information, and sometimes intervention. And you need these things quickly! This is especially true if your baby is younger than about 6 weeks old, since this critical time is when your milk supply is getting established.

But the idea that milk-boosting foods and drinks cure low milk supply is pervasive. Stores sell location cookies in the baby aisle, companies market milk-boosting herbal supplements, and breastfeeding support groups abound with recipes and diet regimens designed to make your breasts burst! 

Consuming a galactagogue is a tempting solution to low milk supply: It’s quick! And so many say these supplements are effective! But the truth is, in places of the world where food and water isn’t scare, milk supply issues are RARELY caused or fixed by something in (or not in) the breastfeeding parent’s diet. 

Do lactation bites work?
Lactation bites, while tasty, may not correct the true cause of low milk suppy.

In fact, low milk supply has a lot of possible causes. Milk supply is controlled by milk removal, so one of the most common causes of low milk supply is not breastfeeding or pumping often enough (this problem is made worse by the fact that our culture endorses many parenting practices that can directly harm milk supply!). 

Milk supply is also controlled by a proper balance of hormones that some health conditions can (but do not always) disrupt. Milk letdown is controlled by the hormone oxytocin, which can be inhibited by stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Milk production is also influenced by hormones like prolactin, progesterone, estrogen and thyroid hormone. Sometimes the body doesn’t produce these hormones in the right quantities.

Milk supply can even be affected by the breasts themselves. Some breasts aren’t very responsive to breast pumps, some babies have oral anomalies that make it difficult for them to properly stimulate the breasts, some breasts have been affected by surgery, some breasts don’t have a sufficient amount of milk-secreting tissue, and the list goes on! Even birth experiences can have an impact on milk supply. 

An ineffective latch can cause low milk supply, and lactation cookies won't fix a poor latch.
A shallow latch can actually cause low milk supply over time! It’s not unusual for this to become apparent at 2-4 months postpartum.

The good news is that, depending on your breastfeeding goals, SO MANY of these issues can be fixed or worked through. But a mountain of oatmeal will never correct a poor latch. A river of Body Armor will never replace the need to nurse or pump often enough. And the best lactation cookie will never effectively treat an improperly functioning thyroid. 

When time is of the essence, galactagogues can be a distraction that can delay you getting the help you need. 

2) There is little evidence that they work

Much of the existing research on the use of non-pharmacological galactagogues is very low quality (source). Studies suffer from small sample sizes, subjective measurements of success, non-standardized ways of measuring milk volume, insufficient randomization methods, and varying breastfeeding practices accompanying the use of these supplements (source).  

A recently published Cochrane review (the gold standard for high-quality, systematic reviews of published research) recently concluded:

There is limited evidence that milk‐boosting medications may increase milk volume and that natural milk boosters may improve milk volume and infants’ weight, but we are very uncertain about the supporting evidence. Due to limited information, we are also uncertain if there are any risks to the mother or baby in taking any particular milk booster. More high‐quality studies are needed to increase our certainty about the effects of milk boosters.

In other words, we don’t really know how effective galactagogues are! 

Do herbal breastfeeding supplements work? We don't really know!
Do herbal breastfeeding supplements actually work? We don’t really know!

And keep in mind that this research was most likely studying the efficacy of herbs believed or known to have medicinal properties. Researchers almost certainly weren’t studying the efficacy of milk-boosters often recommended in parenting groups, such as Body Armor, the Starbucks Pink Drink, Oreos, or your girlfriend’s lactation cookie recipe. So much is still unknown.

“Okay, okay,” you might be thinking. “So maybe we don’t know how well galactagogues work. But real people see results! So why not give these things a try just in case?” 

Well, here’s why you might not want to:

3) Some milk-boosting dietary supplements can cause harm

While we might not know if galactagogues actually yield their desired results, we do know it is absolutely possible for them to yield undesired results. 

Fenugreek, for example, is an ingredient often found in lactation cookies and mother’s milk teas. But this ingredient is known to cause upset stomach and gas in breastfeeding parents and their babies, and it’s not recommended for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, asthma, people who are on medications to slow blood-clotting, and people who are allergic to peanuts or chickpeas (source). Anecdotally, some breastfeeding parents report fenugreek lowering their milk supply rather than boosting it.

Fenugreek is actually not recommended as a milk boosting supplement for many breastfeeding parents with allergies or certain health conditions.
Fenugreek seed is a common ingredient in many lactation boosting foods. But does it work?

Fenugreek is not the only herb that can interact with other medications or have undesired effects. Moringa leaf should be consumed with caution if you take blood thinners, Goat’s rue may have hypoglycemic effects and may negatively interact with diabetes medications, Fennel seed and Blessed thistle may cause allergic reactions, and so on. 

This doesn’t mean that teas, tinctures, or capsules of these galactagogues are bad. It just means they should be consumed with appropriate caution and, depending on your health history, possibly under the guidance of a healthcare professional. 

There’s also the potential issue of excess calorie consumption. Lactation cookies, for example, may not contain enough of a particular galactagogue to impact milk supply unless you eat a lot of them. A regular Body Armor drink is mostly water and ~21g sugar (coconut water is the third ingredient). A 16oz Starbucks Pink Drink has 27g carb, 24 of which come from sugar. 

Lactation cookies should likely not be the only method you use to boost milk supply.

Again, this doesn’t mean that lactation treats are bad! But it is good to consider how they fit with your dietary and nutritional needs. The truth is, if your milk supply is being affected by insufficient calorie intake or dehydration, water and “regular” food will be just as effective at resolving this. And you’ll save some money, too, because…

4) Commercial galactagogues can be expensive!

A baker local to me that specializes in breastfeeding treats sells 9 small “lactation brownies” for $14. 
A box of just ten 2 oz. bags of lactation cookie bites costs $21.99. 
A 180 count bottle of a popular herbal lactation supplement (enough for 20 days) sells for $44.99. 

Commercial lactation treats are very expensive

The cost of commercial lactation treats and supplements can really add up, and if you don’t know the cause of your supply issues, there’s a very real risk these things won’t even work! Sometimes increased cost doesn’t translate to increased quality or efficacy.

The good news is, if you want to try lactation treats, there are cost-effective ways to make your own. 

And lastly…

5) They send the wrong message.

Sometimes lactation foods and drinks simply make us feel better. They make us feel like we’re doing something, and they taste good, and they offer some peace of mind that can help us feel more relaxed. 

Honestly, that’s great! And if that’s working for you, I’m never going to tell you that you need to stop. 

But whenever possible, I would much rather see that relaxation and peace of mind come from a big bite of accurate information about milk supply, normal breast changes, and normal infant behavior. I would much rather see breastfeeding parents offered evidence-based support first and a box of lactation cookies much later (if ever). 

Taking a breastfeeding class can help solve low milk supply problems before they ever start.
My breastfeeding course, Breastfeed With Confidence, teaches breastfeedig parents everything they need to know about milk supply to set themselves up for breastfeeding success–in less than 90 minutes!

When we as a society push things like lactation cookies, Body Armor, lactation supplements or special breastfeeding diets, parents receive a not-so-subtle message that low milk supply is the norm, that it might be lurking around every corner, and that their body’s ability to produce milk should be doubted from the beginning. And this causes a lot of unnecessary stress. It can even cause us to change our behaviors in ways that actually promote low milk supply! 

What can you do instead?

If you suspect you have low milk supply, my first recommendation will be to always reach out for help from a qualified provider (you can learn about how to find a qualified provider and free support here). Be wary of falling for low milk supply myths, but if your gut says something is going on, listen to it! Don’t want to get help.

A qualified lactation support provider (usually an IBCLC) will be able to help narrow down the cause of any supply issues you might be experiencing and help you work through them. A great provider will support you in your choices, teach you how to properly bottle-feed if needed or wanted, and encourage formula supplementation or combination feeding (breastmilk + formula) when necessary or desired. This post discusses how to find supportive and qualified breastfeeding help.

lactation consultant helping a breastfeeding parent with latch issues causing low milk supply

The next most important thing you can do help correct low supply is make sure you understand how milk production works and ensure that baby has a deep latch. This will help you make breastfeeding adjustments that can effectively boost supply issues caused by feeding frequency or a latch that needs fixing. And don’t forget to grab this free guide I wrote that explains 5 ways to boost your breast pump output!

If you never took a breastfeeding education class while pregnant (and even if you did), consider taking one now. My Breastfeed With Confidence course covers everything you need to know about how milk supply works, how to promote more milk production, and how to avoid supply issues now and in the future. And it even includes an accelerated version specifically designed for parents who have already birthed their babies!

Finally, can we all agree that cookies are good? If you want one, enjoy it! But enjoy it because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our digital library of helpful resources that quickly teach how to avoid common breastfeeding problems and give you the peace of mind and confidence you need to meet your breastfeeding goals.

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