The Lactation Cookie Phenomenon
An article came out on Health.com recently about “Lactation Cookies”. Moms on Pinterest are searching for help with breastfeeding and are downloading the recipes for lactation cookies in droves.
“If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, you are not alone. As many as 92% of first-time mothers encounter issues, according to a Pediatrics study. Along with pain and trouble getting the baby to latch, low milk supply is one of the most distressing concerns for new moms. But many women swear that a special cookie (of all things) can work wonders, and it is taking off on Pinterest.”
It seems Moms who want to breastfeed are looking for answers to their nursing problems. The article talked about the ingredients in the cookies being helpful but could it be the effect of the cookies isn’t about the ingredients? Maybe it’s about the belief that these cookies will help, and the new mother finding other women to talk to online about their nursing problems. The belief that these cookies will help perhaps provides a placebo affect that allows the new mother’s milk to flow. When a nursing mom feels relaxed, when she feels connected, the hormone oxytocin is released which is the human “milk” hormone, the hormone that allows a woman’s body to “let-down” her milk. A nursing mother can have plenty of milk in her breasts but if she is tense, stressed or anxious about nursing this important “let-down” reflex is inhibited, not allowing her milk to flow.
What is truly “the recipe” that would allow American moms to have less breastfeeding issues? The anthropologist who coined the word “doula” for modern mothers is Dana Raphael. Spurred on by her own difficulties with breastfeeding and her inability to nurse her firstborn, she started to study nursing in other cultures around the world. Her observation of mammals such as elephants, chimps and dolphins revealed to her the phenomenon of other caring females that attended the birth and helped the new mother mammal to care for her newborn. “Slowly it dawned on me there was something about having others near and helpful that might be essential to successful lactation. I began to work on the idea that if breastfeeding is to succeed there must be someone around to ‘mother the mother’. “
She writes: “As my research continued, I began to notice that in America when a mother has no doula she tends to become tense and anxious…tension can interfere with the ejection reflex (also called “let-down”). When this reflex fails, so does lactation…in order to breastfeed the mother must be relatively free from stress, a state induced most effectively with the help of one or more supportive individuals.”
Doesn’t this seem like a likely explanation for many breastfeeding problems in the first weeks of nursing that many new moms experience? So many new mothers aren’t prepared for their postpartum or for the reality of breastfeeding a newborn – how to get a proper, pain-free latch, how often a newborn needs to nurse, feeding cues etc. Many new mothers go home alone with a caring partner but no female support.
Having a Postpartum Doula whether she comes from a new mother’s family or from a Professional Doula (one specifically trained in breastfeeding, newborn care and the running of a household) can lessen or erase many of the nursing problems plaguing American women. Those cookies? Your doula can bake you those cookies, make some nutritious meals for your whole family, keep everyone in clean underwear, while providing encouragement and breastfeeding guidance for you. Having an experienced, nurturing doula will ease the stress that accompanies bringing a newborn home from the hospital. Give yourself some breathing room, cuddle your baby, get some “mothering” for yourself and you may be able to avoid breastfeeding problems altogether with supportive female help, a postpartum doula.
~by Susan Shepard Keeney, Owner of MothersCare Doula Services of CT, CLC, PD
*from the Book “Only Mothers Know”, by Dana Raphael and Flora Davis
About Susan Shepard Keeney
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”