If you're a new mom or know one, these oatmeal-raisin lactation cookies are a delicious, nutrient-packed snack. Unlike many store-bought lactation cookies with refined sugars and bland wheat flour, you won't find any of that nonsense here. This recipe is chock-full of flavor from whole-grain oats, honey, cinnamon, and dried fruit. Oh yeah, and dark chocolate chips if you desire.
For more information on galactagogues and breastfeeding support, check out the La Leche League, International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, or the Center for Breastfeeding. Your OB-GYN should also be able to make good recommendations for nursing support.
While nearly unheard of until the last decade, lactation cookies are everywhere an expectant or nursing mother looks. Loads of recipes exist online, but buyers and bakers beware. Because a lactation cookie is only as good as its ingredients.
And when it comes to the milk-boosting claims made by any brand or recipe, the scientifically-proven effectiveness of herbs or supplements like brewer's yeast is a bit thin. But that doesn't mean nursing moms can't enjoy a nutrient-dense cookie with a few choice ingredients. And plenty of women who safely added brewer's yeast or fenugreek to their diet while nursing will attest to ample milk supply. And cute, chubby baby cheeks to kiss as a result.
Anecdotal evidence? Absolutely. But a great excuse to bake up dozens of cookies to stash in the freezer for when you're up all night with a hungry newborn.
What's great about this particular recipe is it's conveniently gluten-free and can easily be dairy-free, for mothers (and others!) who are allergic or avoid one or the other. The cookies bake up crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Truly a scrumptious snack for anyone, nursing mom or not (just ask my husband and kids).
- Old-fashioned oats
- Oat flour
- Kosher or sea salt
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground flaxseed, optional
- Brewer's yeast, optional
- Oat bran or psyllium husk powder, optional
- Ghee, butter, avocado oil, or coconut oil
- Raw honey (or your favorite sweetener)
- Unsulphured blackstrap molasses
- Vanilla extract
- Dried fruit: raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, etc.
- Dark chocolate chips
Oats, oat flour, and oat bran. What I love most about baking with these grains is they all are full of fiber and minimally processed. If you can't find oat flour, simply grind whole oats in a blender or food processor. Without a way to grind oats, replace the oat flour with a whole grain flour like buckwheat. Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat groat and is where most of the fiber in the plant lives.
Brewer's yeast. Touted as a great source of b-complex vitamins and protein, the taste is not for everyone. Brewer's yeast is quite bitter, and a little goes a long way. Read more about brewer's yeast here. The supplement can interact with certain medications, so always check with your doctor before adding it to your diet. And you can certainly make lactation cookies without brewer's yeast. (I personally think it helped me when I was nursing, but again, an anecdotal account).
Ground flaxseed. Like many other seeds, flaxseeds contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, flax might just be the most potent dietary source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) for we humans according to published reseach. And these essential fatty acids are well-known as crucial to an infant's fast-developing brain.
Psyllium husk powder. This is a common fiber supplement that aids in digestion (it's the ingredient in Metamucil, a fiber supplement marketed to treat constipation). Most Americans need more fiber in their diet, and new moms are no exception. Childbirth does a number on the body (I know firsthand), and smooth digestion after labor can prove a tricky business. You can find it in pure form at most grocery stores. But like brewer's yeast, if you don't want to invest in it, you can leave it out.
Dried fruit. It's not a secret that dried fruits are concentrated antioxidant superheroes, and contain a decent amount of iron, too (just check the labels). Add a variety of dried fruits to up the nutritional ante in any cookie.
On Sugar Alternatives
You don't have to be a nutritionist to read a food package label. So anyone can easily spot that refined sugar is empty calories. But if you enjoy sweetness in your cookies (and who doesn't?) raw honey and molasses are great alternatives. Coconut sugar and maple syrup are not as refined as white sugar, and lend their own signature aromas.
Raw honey. This syrupy sweetener courtesy of busy bees is a great source of antioxidants is anti-inflammatory, and contains gut-boosting prebiotics (food for the good bacteria in your gut). While much of this may perish in the heat of the oven, the possible benefits of reaching for honey first are unmatched by other sweeteners.
Molasses. I love molasses for everyday baking (and it was recommended to me by a certified childbirth doula when I was pregnant for its calcium content). As a by-product of sugar processing, molasses actually makes off with all the good stuff. In addition to high levels of calcium per serving, it contains iron, potassium and even selenium, nutrients absent in table sugar. Choose organic molasses for fewer residual agricultural chemicals.
Coconut sugar. If honey won't cut it for you or the new mom in your life, coconut sugar is a slightly less-refined replacement for white sugar. But don't let anyone pretend it's an entirely "natural" sweetener or superfood. It does bring a hint of tropical island flavor to any recipe. Which might be a welcome aroma when you find yourself stuck in the rocking chair for the fifth time in one morning.
Maple Syrup. Many followers of a paleo-style diet reach for maple syrup when baking, but be careful with this enticing tree sap. Maple syrup is incredibly high on the sweetness meter, so a little goes a long way. It's about twice as sweet as honey, and three times as sweet as granulated sugar.
Artificial Sweeteners. Food markets are flooded with so-called natural sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, sucralose, and erythritol. While plenty of nutritional studies have attempted to discern their benefits and/or harm, the science is inconclusive. If you buy and bake with one that you like, follow the manufacturer's reference for how much to use.
This is simple cookie dough, so simple equipment is all you need. If you own a stand mixer, grab the paddle attachment. Otherwise, a large bowl and an electric hand mixer work great.
- measuring cups
- large bowl
- electric mixer, either a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment
- flexible spatula
- parchment paper (keeps the cookies from sticking to the pan)
- baking pan or cookie sheet
- ice cream scoop with a release or two large spoons
The dough for these oatmeal-raisins delights comes together using the creaming method. And if you use your favorite heart-healthy oil, it comes together even quicker because you're not waiting for cold butter to soften. To mix a cookie dough using the creaming method, you first beat the fat with the sugar or sweetener until it becomes smooth and light in color. Then you beat in the eggs, extracts, and last the dry ingredients.
Before you begin be sure to wash your hands, gather and measure out your ingredients, preheat the oven, and ready your pans.
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Soak the fruit. Chop any larger dried fruits like apricots into quarter-inch pieces, and soak all the dried fruit together submerged in hot water. This keeps the fruit from drawing moisture out of the cookies during baking. Let the fruit soak while you mix the dough.
- Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk the dry ingredients together. This helps evenly distribute the oats, bran, brewer's yeast, flaxseed, and/or psyllium husk powder so each cookie gets its fair share. Whisk any additional spices in with the dry ingredients. I love oats with cinnamon, but spices such as nutmeg, cardamom, or a pie spice can up the scrumptious factor.
- Cream the fat and sweetener. At medium speed, beat softened butter, ghee, or your oil of choice with the honey (or sweetener) until smooth. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is lightened in color and increased in volume. If you choose to bake with oil, the mixture will be very loose, but beat it for a few minutes to get it as smooth as possible.
- Beat in the wet ingredients until smooth. On medium-low speed, beat in the vanilla extract, molasses, and eggs. Scraping the bowl and the beater(s) often gives you a smoother dough that will bake up evenly.
- Add the dry ingredients. On low speed, mix in dry ingredients a little at a time. Scrape the bowl throughout mixing, but especially with this step.
- Drain and add the fruit. Strain the excess water away from the dried fruit. I like using a mesh sieve (strainer). But you can also use your hand to hold the fruit back in the bowl while pouring the water out. Fold the fruit and any chocolate chips gently into the dough until evenly dispersed. The dough can be prepared to this step, and chilled for up to a week, or frozen.
- Scoop, press, and bake. With a chewy, dense cookie like these, I find flattening the scooped dough allows for the best bake. I use a quick and easy method to press all my cookies at once and prevent sticky, gooey hands. Simply scoop your cookies onto the pan, cover with a sheet of parchment, then use another pan to press down evenly on all of the mounds at once. Without a second pan, you can flatten the cookies individually by pressing down with your palm or the back of a large spatula.
Oatmeal cookies - designed for lactation or not - keep and freeze very well. Especially if you use oil as the fat, the cookies will stay moist for several days if kept well-sealed. My favorite method for storing cookie dough is to create a cylinder of it using plastic wrap. But whichever way you chill or freeze the dough, be sure to seal it in an air-tight bag or container.
Any combination of the below mix-ins is a wonderful way to avoid flavor fatigue if you keep your cookie jar routinely stocked.
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
- Organic raisins
- Dried apricots
- Dried dark cherries
- Dried blueberries
- Chopped, roasted pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Dark chocolate chips or chunks, use this recipe for homemade paleo chocolate chunks
Frequently Asked Questions
The theory behind eating specially-formulated cookies called "lactation cookies" is that the ingredients work as galactagogues. The term galactagogue refers to any herb, medicine, or food that can increase a nursing mother's milk supply by supporting the production of the hormone prolactin. Clinical and scientific evidence is inconsistent when it comes to the effectiveness of herbs and medicine on the hormone prolactin. But many cultures and nursing mothers believe in the milk-boosting power of certain foods and herbs.
Anytime you like! While it's not proven that certain ingredients in most lactation cookies can help a mother's milk supply, many of them are naturally nutrient-dense and can be beneficial to overall health. If you choose your cookie wisely, a high-fiber, sort-of-nutritious cookie can be just the right snack a new mom needs when running on fumes.
Don't worry, the baby's dad (or any hungry guy) can enjoy lactation cookies, and they won't start producing milk. Although, how helpful that would be! While the ingredients in any lactation cookie are designed to support a nursing mom's overall health, anyone can enjoy a cookie or three. One thing to be aware of with packaged lactation cookies is they can contain herbs that interact poorly with certain medications.
Even if you don't want to spring for the specialty ingredients like brewer's yeast, these cookies can still offer general nutritional support for new and nursing mothers. Oats and oatmeal are whole grains loaded with fiber, and commonly accepted galactagogues (lactation-supporting food, herb, or medicine) even if the proof is anecdotal.
So whether with raisins or chocolate chips, ground flaxseed or oat bran, these cookies are just what new moms need. The feeling that they, too, are loved and being nurtured as they embark on the wild ride we call motherhood.
Crispy, chewy, moist, sweet, naturally gluten-free, and no refined sugar! These oatmeal lactation cookies are lightly sweet and made with nothing but nutrient-dense ingredients. And don't worry, anyone can enjoy these delicious cookies, and feel less guilt in the process.
- 1½ cups of old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
- ⅔ cup of oat flour
- 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, optional
- 2 tablespoons of psyllium husk powder or oat bran, optional
- 3 tablespoons brewer's yeast, optional
- 1 cup or 8 ounces (2 sticks) of softened unsalted butter, ghee, avocado oil, or coconut oil*
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of honey, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, or ⅓ cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon of blackstrap or unsulphered molasses
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1-1½ cups of dried fruit and/or dark chocolate chips
Before you begin mixing the dough, preheat your oven to 350° F, line your baking pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper (if using), gather all of your equipment, and measure out all of your ingredients.
Soak the Dried Fruit
- Chop larger pieces of dried fruit into quarter-inch pieces.
- In a small bowl, combine all of the dried fruit and cover it with the hottest water your tap will give.
- Let the fruit soak while you mix the dough.
Mix the Dough
- Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Combine the butter and honey (or your sweetener) in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat at medium-high speed until the ingredients are nicely combined and lightened in color.
- Add the eggs, vanilla, and molasses and beat at medium-high speed to mix well, stopping to scrape the bowl and beater a couple of times. This will bring all of the ingredients together to create the smoothest dough possible.
- On low speed, beat in dry ingredients in several additions. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and the beater with a spatula.
- Drain and squeeze excess water from dried fruit with your hands, if using.
- With a spatula, fold in the soaked fruit and/or chocolate chips until evenly dispersed in the dough.
- The cookie dough can be prepared to this step several days ahead and stored chilled for up to a week. Or shaped into a log and wrapped very tightly in plastic wrap, sealed in a zipper storage bag, and frozen for three to six months.
Scoop + Bake
- Scoop even-sized balls of cookie dough onto a non-stick or parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart.
- With a chewy, dense cookie like these, I find flattening the scooped dough allows for the best bake. I use a quick and easy method to press all my cookies at once, and prevent sticky, gooey hands. Simply cover your pan with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, then use another pan to press down with even pressure on all of the dough balls at once.
- Bake the cookies just until they are set, and begin to brown around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. The longer you bake, the crispier the cookies will be.
- Cool the cookies on pan for five minutes, then carefully move them from the pan to a cooling rack or a plate.
- Store in an air-tight container at room temperature, or freeze.
You can certainly use any oats you have on hand. Old-fashioned oats will produce a slightly looser cookie, as they absorb less moisture than quick-cooking. Quick-cooking oats will give you more cohesive cookie dough. Both offer helpful fiber and bake up delicious.
On the Optional Supplements
All of the dry ingredients labeled "optional" will lend their own nutritional profiles to the cookies. Brewer's yeast contains ample B vitamins, but is also very bitter and not a taste everyone enjoys. Flaxseed is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and is generally a flavor that plays nice with others. Oat bran and psyllium husk powder are mild and both contain lots of fiber and can be just the ticket to get digestion back up to speed after childbirth.
If you like a sweeter cookie, you can add up to half of a cup of honey, or perhaps three-quarters of a cup of brown sugar or coconut sugar.
Oatmeal cookies - designed for lactation or not - keep and freeze very well. Especially if you use oil as the fat, the cookies will stay moist for several days. To bake ahead and freeze several batches for after the baby arrives, be sure to seal the cookies in an air-tight bag or container.
The Nutrition Information below is based on the recipe as written using oat bran. Depending on the optional ingredients you choose, the nutritional profile will be slightly different.
Keywords: gluten free lactation cookies, oatmeal lactation cookies, healthy lactation cookies, easy lactation cookies