When I got pregnant about a year ago, all I ever heard and read about was how my appetite would skyrocket, and I’d be eating everything in sight to nourish my growing baby. Well, I was one of those fortunate mamas who managed to avoid a lot of nausea for the most part, and yes … I had quite the appetite. What people didn’t tell me was the rate that my already aggressive appetite would completely escalate with my decision to breastfeed. HOLY COW. (Pardon the pun.) When your body starts to make milk, it becomes a calorie-burning machine. You’re feeding and nourishing another human being. It’s fascinating, really. And exhausting.
There’s a lot of stress that comes with being a new mom. If you choose to breastfeed, one of those stresses is being able to produce enough milk for that baby. I have friends with freezers full of milk—overproducers, we’ll call them—who have the luxury of putting out hundreds of ounces with zero effort. Well, ha, I am not one of those. I may have eeeked out an extra ounce or two here and there, but for the most part, I produce enough to feed my little bundle … and that is it.
A friend of mine then told me about these lactation cookies that help stimulate milk production. Cookies that promote milk production? I’d already heard that dark beer stimulated milk production, and I’ll be the first to admit that I had been more than happy to join that train, treating myself to a frothy stout or porter every night once the evening feed was complete. But cookies, too? Where do I sign up?
To my surprise, Google was flooded with recipes for "lactation cookies," in addition to the term galactagogue. A galactagogue is a substance that helps increase milk production. While the list includes a lot of herbal remedies like blessed thistle and fenugreek, it also mentions oatmeal, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast … the three key components found in most of the recipes I came across for these “magic” milk cookies. Also found in every recipe was about a cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, and loads of refined flour. The average cookie rang in at 210 calories and 5g sat fat per cookie—and only 1.5g fiber and 3g protein. Fine for one cookie, but there’s not a lot of staying power in these guys. Try and tell an exhausted and starving breastfeeding mama that she is only allowed to have one of her magic milk cookies at a time. Ain’t happening. And she wonders why all that baby weight isn’t just shedding off.
As an editor whose life revolves around recipe makeovers, I figured I might as well dive in. This one was a bit different, though. The milking mothers of the world need more calories in order to produce. An average of 300-500 more per day. So I wanted something that was not only sufficient in heart-healthy calories, but tasty, too. I kept all that oatmeal and ground flaxseed, but dropped the white flour for whole-grain quinoa. To save time (which can be hard to come by with a newborn), I decided to transform the cookies into bars, which cut out the time it takes to scoop and roll dozens of dough balls. With bars, just mix 'em up, pack 'em into an 8-inch square pan, and bake them for 11 minutes until set.
I also swapped out both sticks of butter for rich, creamy nut butter—packed with heart-healthy fats. The nut butter also complements the brewer’s yeast (found here or at Whole Foods), which has a nutty but slightly bitter flavor. To sweeten, I used a little honey and lots of dried fruit, cutting sugar from the original recipe in half.
I was quite pleased. They’re tasty, filling, and full of fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fats … just what a new mama needs. Plus, they’re 100% whole grain, with nearly double the protein and fiber of the original cookies.
Even if you’re not breastfeeding, they’re a great thing to bake and take to any friend who’s just had a baby. Trust me. She’s going to want some snacks. She’s going to need snacks. These make 32—you can easily halve the batch or just freeze half. I figure if I’m toasting and chopping everything I might as well double it all to either save time or share with friends!
Magic Milk Bars
- 2 cups uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
- 11/3 cups uncooked quinoa
- 11/2 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup roasted almonds, chopped
- 2/3 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
- 1/4 cup brewer's yeast
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup creamy almond butter
- 10 tablespoons honey (that’s 1/2 cup + 2T)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Spread oats and quinoa on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Place oat mixture in a large bowl, and stir in cherries, almonds, coconut, flaxseed meal, brewer's yeast, and chocolate.
- Combine almond butter, honey, oil, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture; toss well to coat. Press mixture into 2 (8-inch) square glass or ceramic baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in dish. Cut evenly into squares.
CALORIES 199; FAT 10.3g (sat 2.1g, mono 5.1g, poly 2.3g); PROTEIN 5g; CARB 24g; FIBER 3g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 54mg; CALC 47mg