As I sit here writing this , I am getting text messages from one of my best friends about her cracked nipples and breast feeding woes. She currently has a one week old newborn, born by c-section, who has latch issues causing feeding problems like sore nipples, engorgement, bruising, the list goes on.
Our 4 year olds were born one week and many miles apart; mine here in Dublin and hers in Istanbul, but even though we were physically far away from each other, nothing could have brought us closer together.
We would sit up texting each other at 4 am through yet another exhausting night feed, we would share pictures of our war wounds and try to see them as a badge of pride instead of a stark reminder of how much our worlds had changed beyond recognition, we would keep each other laughing through the small hours of the morning when it felt like every other person in the world was asleep except us.
It seems like such a small thing but those shared moments saved me at a time when I felt like I was drowning. All around me, all I could see on social media, in cafes, in movies, in magazines ( if I ever got a second to read them!) were pictures of beautiful, shiny haired, perfect figured, freshly showered mums blissfully gazing down at their angelic newborn as they nursed gracefully.
I, in stark contrast, felt like a sweaty, greasy haired harridan of a thing, barely managing to make enough milk for my little guys insatiable appetite and his hour long feeding stints.
If it wasn’t for these shared moments with my friend I think I would have felt like a failure. I would have let the voice of my inner critic speak louder than anything else; telling me I wasn’t enough for my son, I wasn’t enough of a woman , of a mum, of a wife.
Those first few months with a baby can be very lonely and isolating, you are struggling to make sense of your new body, the new landscape of your life and the new rhythms of your day and night. There is a feeling of huge expectation on you from society in general to be ‘loving it', to be so bathed in an oxytocin glow that every moment is just blissful with your bundle of joy.
For many mums that is the case, I have friends who have blossomed in the weeks after giving birth, moving seamlessly into their new role, into their new world. However, I now know that there are many, many women , like me and my friend, who struggle with breastfeeding challenges for a myriad of reasons; tongue tie, post c-section, twins, oversupply, undersupply, tongue asymmetry, inverted nipples, post birth shock, the list goes on.
If you are reading this and these words are resonating with you, I would like you to know you are not alone. You are not a failure. You are doing the best possible job you can for your little person and that means you are enough, just as you are. There are a tribe of us who fought tooth and nail to feed our babies and whether that was for one week or one year we tried and at the end of the day that is what makes us warriors.
When I was asked to write this article and give tips to other mums who might find themselves in a similar situation as I was , the first thing that came to mind was these breastfeeding cookies. They were my saving grace during the period of endless pumping and weighing and hand expressing and feeding again and again.
I would make a huge batch of these, freeze half and then eat the rest at each feed both day and night. They are filled with galactagogues, natures answer to milk supply issues; They help us to keep our milk supply up when we are weak, tired, sick or having our first period since pregnancy.
There were times when I used to dread each feed, because I was so worried about how it would go, but having one of these delicious cookies to look forward to as a treat afterwards helped me carry on moving forward. Sometimes it’s the simple things that bring us the greatest relief.
So here they are ; my favorite breastfeeding cookies.
Before I dive into the recipe itself ; here are a few notes about the magic ingredients contained within.
Butter; breastmilk is 3-5% fat and so it's hugely important to include healthy fats in your diet when you are nursing.
Fenugreek; this wonder seed is related to the pea family and is full of potassium, vitamin c and Diosgenin a compound said to help boost milk supply naturally.
Flaxseed; high in antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids
Oats; high in iron ( Low iron levels can affect milk supply. Food source iron is always the best choice as it is easier to absorb)
Dates; high in calcium/iron/magnesium/zinc and vitamins
Molasses; full of vital minerals and nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, b6 and selenium. It is often used to help flagging adrenals in people who are chronically tired.
Brewers yeast; This is one of the most famous galactagogues. Years ago mothers were given a beer when they were feeding because of the yeast used during the brewing process. It contains phytoestrogens which may be at the root of its success as a milk booster. It is also high in B vitamins/ chromium and proteins.
However a word of warning here; if you have crohns, Ibs or sensitivity to yeast you might leave this one out as it can cause tummy upset in some people and babies.
Makes roughly 12 depending on how big you make them