10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies


Have you noticed all the stressed babies? Maybe 1 in 30 I see has glowing eyes, which I take as a sign of thriving. What's up? Perhaps ignorance about babies and their needs. Here are 10 things to know.

1. Babies are social mammals with social mammalian needs. Social mammals emerged more than 30 million years ago with intensive parenting(a developmental nest or niche). This is one of the many (extra-genetic) things that evolved other than genes. This developmental nest matches up with the maturational schedule and thus is required for an individual to develop optimally. Intensive parenting practices for babies include years of breastfeeding to develop brain and body systems, nearly constant touch and physical presence of caregivers, responsiveness to needs preventing distress, free play with multi-aged playmates, and soothing perinatal experiences. Each of these has significant effects on physical health.

2. Human babies are born "half-baked" and require an external womb. Humans are born way early compared to other animals: nine months early in terms of mobility and 18 months early in terms of bone development and foraging capacities. Full-term babies have 25% of adult brain volume and most of it grows in the first five years. Thus, the human nest for its young evolved to be even more intense than for other social mammals because of the underdeveloped newborn, lasting for three to five years. Humans also added to the list of expected care a village of positive social support for both mother and baby. (Actually, human brain development lasts into the third decade of life, suggesting that social support and mentoring continue at least that long.)

3. If adults mess up on the post-birth “baking,” long-term problems can result. Each of the caregiving practices mentioned above has longterm effects on the physical health but also the social health of the individual. For example, distressing babies regularly or intensively (by not giving them what they need) undermines self-regulatory systems. This is common knowledge in other cultures and was so in our past. In Spanish, there is a term used for adolescents and adults who misbehave: malcriado (misraised).

4. Babies thrive on affectionate love. When babies receive food and diaper changes and little else, they die. If they receive partial attention and stay alive, it is still not enough—they won’t reach their full potential. Urie Bronfenbrenner, who emphasized the multiple systems of support that foster optimal development, said that babies do best when at least one person is crazy about them. Others have noted that children grow best with three affectionate, consistent caregivers. In fact, babies expect more than mom and dad for loving care. Babies are ready for a community of close, responsive caregivers that includes mother nearby.

5. Babies’ right hemisphere of the brain is developing rapidly in the first three years. The right hemisphere develops in response to face-to-face social experience, with extended shared eye gaze. The right hemisphere governs several self-regulatory systems. If babies are placed in front of screens, ignored or isolated, they are missing critical experiences.

6. Babies expect to play and move. Babies expect to be “in arms” or on the body of the caregiver most of the time. Skin-to-skin contact is a calming influence. After learning this one of my students when at a family gathering took a crying baby and held it to his neck, which calmed it down. Babies expect companionship not isolation or intrusion. They expect to be in the middle of community social life. They are ready to play from birth. Play is a primary method for learning self-control and social skills. Companionship care—friendship, mutual responsiveness, and playfulness—builds social and practical intelligence. Babies and caregivers share intersubjective states, building the child’s capacities for the interpersonal “dances” that fill social life.

7. Babies have built-in warning systems. If they are not getting what they need, babies let you know. It is best, as most cultures have long known, to respond to a baby’s grimace or gesture and not to wait till crying occurs. Young babies have difficulty stopping crying once it starts. The best advice for baby care is to sensitively follow the baby, not the experts.

8. Babies lock their experiences into procedural memory vaults that will be inaccessible but apparent in later behavior and attitudes. Babies can be toxically stressed from neglecting the list of needs above. They won’t forget. It will undermine their trust of others, their health, and social wellbeing, and lead to self-centered morality which can do much destruction to the world.

9. Culture does not erase the evolved needs babies have. Babies cannot retract their mammalian needs. Yet, some adult cultures advocate violating evolved baby needs as if they do not matter and despite the protests of the baby. Everyday violations include baby isolation like sleeping alone, “crying it out” sleep training, infant formula, or baby videos and flashcards.* When violations occur regularly, at critical time periods or are intense, they undermine optimal development. These violations are encoded in the baby’s body as the optimal development of systems is undermined (e.g., immunity, neurotransmitters, endocrine systems like oxytocin). Surprisingly, some developmental psychologists think it fine to violate these needs** in order for the child to fit into the culture.

The rationalization of “culture over biology” reflects a lack of understanding not only of human nature but of optimal development. This has occurred in laboratories with other animals whose natures were misunderstood. For example, Harry Harlow, known for his experiments with monkeys and “mother love,” at first did not realize he was raising abnormal monkeys when he isolated them in cages. Similarly, at least one of the aggressive rat strains used in lab studies today was first created when scientists isolated offspring after birth, again not realizing the abnormality of isolation. Note how the cultural assumptions of the scientists created the abnormal animals. So it matters what cultural assumptions you have.

The culture-over-biology view may be doing the same thing with human beings. By not understanding babies and their needs, we are creating species-atypical human beings. We can only know this to be the case in light of knowledge about human beings who develop under evolved conditions (the "developmental nest" described in point 1): typically, small-band hunter-gatherers. They are wiser, more perceptive and virtuous than we humans in the U.S. today (see note below).

Thus, the final point:

10. Experiences that consistently violate evolution undermine human nature. When species-atypical childrearing occurs, we end up with people whose health and sociality are compromised (which we can see all over the USA today with epidemics of depressionanxiety, high suicide and drug use rates***). Such mis-raised creatures might do all right on achievement tests or IQ measures, but they may also be dangerous reptiles whose world revolves around themselves. A lot of smart reptiles (“snakes in suits”) on Wall Street and elsewhere have been running the country into the ground.

What to do?

  1. Inform others about the needs of babies.
  2. Be aware of the needs of babies around you and interact sensitively with the babies you encounter.
  3. Support parents to be sensitive to the needs of their babies. This will also require many more institutional and social supports for families with children, including extensive parental leave which other developed nations provide. It's an uphill battle right now but raising awareness is the first step.
  4. Read and learn from books that convey the evolved principles of caregiving.

*Note that sometimes violations (e.g., formula, isolation) are required under emergency conditions that are matters of life and death. Also note: In a way, U.S. culture forces parents into these violations because there is no extended family or community support to help provide for all the many needs of a baby.

**Of course they don’t think it’s a violation because they don’t take the set of mammalian needs seriously.

***In the U.S., everyone under 50 has numerous health disadvantages compared to citizens in 16 other developed nations (National Research Council, 2013).

Note: Of course, every human community is not perfect but when you provide young children with their basic needs, they are less aggressive and self-centered. They are less preoccupied with what they want because they got all they wanted when they needed it in early life. The baby nest described above makes for a smart, healthy, well-functioning body and brain, with high emotional intelligence and self-control. They are more socially skilled and empathic toward others. All this makes getting along with others so much easier. All this will have to be explained more thoroughly in another post, citing the anthropology research that shows what people in small-band hunter-gatherer communities are like.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

💜 Peaceful Parenting Community

💙 Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

💗 Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

Research everything!



Ode to My Placenta

Background art by Mamapaints on Etsy


Ode to My Placenta

How do I love? Let me count the ways.

First, I love your beauty, so rich and warm and red
Placenta you’re my pillow in my coziest womb-bed.

Second, you bring nourishment and liquid from my mom
When she eats well, then I eat well, that’s good because I’m young.

Third, you take away my waste and metabolize the rest
It goes out through Mom’s kidneys, no work, no fuss, no mess.

Fourth, you’re a barrier to keep our bloods apart
For mom and I are separate beings, though connected at the start.

Fifth, you’re my advocate - you tell my mom what to do
Your hormones keep me growing and that makes mom healthy too.

Sixth, you bring oxygen each time mom takes a breath
I need a lot of clean, fresh air because my lungs don’t work quite yet.

Seven, you’re my thermostat - you keep my womb just right
Mom sweats for me in the daytime, and warms me up at night.

Lastly, you’re my treasure chest of blood for when I’m born
The extra meal that fills me up to birth me in top form.

So, please don’t cut my cord too soon, and don’t pull on it too
I’ll call for my placenta when I am safely through.

And when you see this wondrous thing that grew me up so well
Say thank you to the God who made us from one cell.

-Sarah Buckley, M.D.
author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices

Placenta Art by Mom Tribe Ceramics
Photography for Etsy Businesses by Soleil Life



Not a Pacifier

By Sarah for Nurshable: Joy in Gentle Parenting
Read more by Sarah here.



Dear Daughter,

You are three weeks old. You nursed pretty much straight through the night last night, as I sort of drifted in and out of being fully awake.

You’re going through a growth spurt.

When you switch sides I feel the sting of letdown. Sometimes you nurse eagerly and gulp down the milk. Sometimes you become upset because you don’t want milk. Or you don’t want the fast flow of my over-active letdown. Sometimes you just want to lay in the semi-dark and nurse peacefully while your little dark blue eyes stare at my face and your little feet kick the still-soft skin of my belly which was your former home. Sometimes you want to comfort nurse. When this happens I kiss your forehead and switch you back to the “empty” side and let you lay close. You are a wise little creature that understands what it is that you need.

I am not a human pacifier.

Usually when a mom says that, it’s an expression of frustration that their infant insists on suckling for comfort. This is not what I mean when I say this.

I am not a warm human substitute for a cold silicone and plastic doohickey.

Your father may sometimes be a human pacifier. You suckle on his pinky finger during diaper changes or when I desperately need to wash my milk-stained body in the shower and remember for a few moments that I have two arms with two hands and that the dimensions of my body do not include an oddly independent nine pound female child that is frequently suspended from my body in a wrap of lightweight gauze. Your grandfather may be a human pacifier, as he holds you lovingly while I get your big brothers ready for bed or eat a hot meal without waiting for it to cool first- a luxury of not being afraid of hot bits of soup falling on you while I eat. Your brothers may briefly be human pacifiers when they offer up their pinky fingers for you to suck on, always imitating their daddy.Your grandma may be a human pacifier when she offers you her pinky finger to suck on and sings you Russian songs from her childhood.

But my breasts are not pacifiers. Comfort sucking is not time wasted. It’s part of the job that my body and you have. It is how we evolved. We are the product of a long process of evolution that causes you to seek out my arms and my breasts, to suckle for comfort, to communicate with my immune system, to stay close and warm and protected, to stimulate the supply of your food, your antibodies, the components of breastmilk that scientists can see but cannot identify the function of.

Maybe you want the comfort of non-nutritive suckling because there is something that has you stressed out. Maybe you want a slow flow of high fat hindmilk that comes from comfort nursing. Maybe your body has some bacteria in it and you need the closeness so that your immune system can communicate with my immune system and it all can be taken care of without either of us ever knowing and without you ever becoming sick from the foreign invaders that your body cannot cope with but that my adult immune system attacks with the ferocity of a mama bear defending her cub.

Independence will come at your pace. “I DO IT MYSELF!” will become the phrase of the moment soon enough. The need to peel off and be independent is as natural a need as the need to breathe, to sleep and to eat. It comes from within the child when the child has the ability. It has come from within your brothers as they get older. It will come from within you as well. I can see it already as you bob your head against my chest in the wrap and peek over the side eager to strengthen your muscles and look at the world.

I choose to neither hold you past when you wish to be held, nor deny you comfort while it is something that you seek. I push you gently to be independent, recognizing that your world naturally expands within your comfort zone without me needing to push you past it into tears.

I am not a “human pacifier”. I am what you have a biological and evolutionary need for. I will not devalue your needs by implying that you lack the wisdom and understanding of what those needs are. I will not devalue your needs by becoming frustrated by your refusal to accept something that does not meet those needs. I want you to listen to your body from the beginning, to understand the difference between a healthy need of yours and a pacifying object. To have an understanding that dates back to the beginnings of your time on this planet.. That comfort comes from having your needs met, not from distracting yourself with something pink, pretty and plastic.

No manufacturer makes what you need for happiness, little one. I want you to understand this from the beginning of your life. Happiness comes from love, from closeness, and from deep inside of you. Seek this happiness, and never be distracted by things that simply pacify you rather than satisfying your needs.


Sarah is a gentle parenting mom of three who writes at Nurshable. Learn more about her passions and how to 'wait it out' when it comes to baby sleep at her site

Breastfeeding mothers are welcome to join the Breastfeeding Group: FB.com/groups/Breastfed

Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?

By Dr. Darcia Narvaez

We have come to think of ourselves and our children more like machines than living creatures—keep the tank full, keep the body clean and shiny, rest it overnight, get it back to work in the morning. Is this a good life?

Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?

As mammals, our heritage is to thrive in social situations. But today in the USA we spend more time alone or with the empty social calories of television and iPod videos than enjoying one another face to face, like our ancestors did. Why?

Here is a hypothesis: many adults spend time the way they did as children. As children many of us spent a great deal of time in carriers or strollers or carseats (rather than being held or carried). So we don't mind long commutes sitting alone in similar circumstances. We were put in front of the television as a babysitter (rather than passed around and cherished by an extended family). So we don't mind long hours in front of the computer. In fact, we've lost some of our ability to get along with people and have an easier time getting along with machines—at least they tend to respond instantaneously to our needs without much coaxing or interaction. (Hmm, people in service jobs do the same thing. They take our orders and money and hand over the goods. Human becomes machine.)

So what, you say? As long as I have a job, get my work done, get the paycheck and can relax a bit in front of the TV, what more can I ask for?

How about some joy? Real, natural joy. Where does it come from?

Here is one source: affectionate touch. 

There was a study some years ago that looked at couples for an hour in cafes in four places: England, France, USA and Puerto Rico. Researchers counted how many times (every 20 seconds) the couple touched each other. As I recall, the British touched not at all, the Americans touched a handful of times, the French about 50 times and the Puerto Ricans about 180 times. This made perfect sense to me, being Puerto Rican. When my husband and I go out to a restaurant, I have to be seated close enough to be able to touch him frequently if not constantly. Latin Americans touch a lot and some reports indicate that Caribbean Latin Americans are among the happiest people in the world.

Human ancestors, like most other social mammals, spent a great deal of time in close proximity. Lots of cuddling, sleeping in the same space touching. Lots of socializing, including singing and laughing (just check out the deep descriptive reports put out by anthropologists who have lived with foraging hunter gatherers).

positive affection between parents and children

What are the positives of affectionate touch? Here are a few:

  • Touch boosts immunity, whether young or old.
  • Young children's emotions and physiological systems are regulated and set up by caregiver touch.
  • People who get massages have more a greater amount of "well-being" chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin in their bodies.
  • Affectionate touch is calming.

Of course, if you grew up with little affectionate touch, it may be hard to want it or accept it now. When I was a child, my family and I would regularly spend a year in a Latin country, returning to Minnesota in between as home base.  I remember coming back from a year in Pamplona, Spain, for ninth grade. On the first day of school at the end of lunch, I remember grabbing my (Scandinavian-heritaged) friend's arm to go back to class. I still remember the look on her face as she squirmed away and demanded to know what I was doing. Woops, I forgot to code switch for the cooler, less affectionate context.

Mariana Caplan, in her book, Untouched, describes how she found it more pleasant to live outside the USA in places where people were more affectionate and trusting. She says:

"The seeming inconveniences of seven people living in one room, or sleeping in a hammock and taking cold showers out of a bucket, were negligible compared to what it felt like to live in an environment of intimacy, communion, love, and an overall sense of well being" (p. xx).

I agree with her that there is a very different feeling in more collectivist cultures, such as those in Latin America. Social life feels more like the interaction of marshmallows—soft, full, sweet, and sticky, in contrast to being in mainstream US culture which feels more like the interaction of ping pong balls—every one is going about their own business in a slick, quick and flat sort of way, with little sense of connection to others.

What's wrong with having an untouching, unaffectionate culture? Starvation. Some decades ago, James Prescott of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development postulated that as a result of little touch many Americans suffer from Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation. Brain systems (e.g., cerebellum) important for social pleasures were insufficiently developed during early childhood due to a lack of touch, making it hard to enjoy positive touch as an adult. The way children are raised is who they become.

What do people do when they are starving for pleasure? Take nourishment from whatever they can find—alcohol, drugs, junk food, electronic media—all of which when misused can be harmful to self and/or others. But humans need pleasure in some fashion—our brains are pleasure-driven.

Okay, so what are some good ways to get affectionate touch?

AS A PARENT:

  • Make sure your children get a lot of positive touch. Hugs, cuddles, gentle strokes.
  • Avoid negative touch (pinch, slap, hit) because it harms the child (and you) in so many ways, including brain development, moral development and trust in you.
  • Don't isolate babies. Keep them on your body as much as possible. There are good, safe ways to sleep with babies in this era of soft mattresses and bed covers.
  • Let your child sit on your lap when they want to, no matter what the age. Oxytocin, the calming "cuddle drug," rises after a half hour or so.
  • Gentle, firm-touch massage for babies and all ages.

FOR YOURSELF THROUGHOUT LIFE: 

  • Learn to sit close with loved ones for relaxation.
  • One of the best times of the day for me is when my husband and I sit close together on a couch to "huggle" (cuddle and snuggle).
  • Several times a day, my husband and I put our foreheads together, noses touching. Forehead to forehead with deep breathing for several minutes—very relaxing! We found out recently that New Zealand Maori use this as a greeting (called hongi).
  • Get a dog and be affectionate.
  • Give and get massages (e.g., shoulders, back, feet, face). Massage decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, and boosts immunity.

For more scholarly information about the effects of touch, see the research of the researchers presenting at the symposium, Human Nature and Early Experience whose website will include videos after the event. Also see James Prescott's work online.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

💜 Peaceful Parenting Community

💙 Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

💗 Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

Babies Sleep Best Near a Loved One's Chest -Danelle Day


Why I Cry

Artwork by @spiritysol

I couldn’t reach the toy. ⠀

I reached out my hands but they couldn’t make it,⠀ ⠀

I don’t know how to crawl just yet.

So I looked around for you and cried, and there you came.⠀

I heard your voice say “You want that toy” as you moved it back to me, and I rested in the truth that you come when I call.⠀

Mama, ⠀

I know you get tired of my cries. It feels like cry for everything right now.⠀

I don’t know how to say “I need the toy” or most importantly “I need you” so I cry instead.⠀

Mama,⠀

It’s not a reflection of how I feel about you.⠀

I love you, that’s why I cry for you.⠀

I need you, that’s why I cry for you.⠀

I know you can’t always get to me right away, that’s ok.⠀

I love hearing your voice saying “I hear you, I’ll be there soon” as I wait for you.⠀

Mama, ⠀

I can’t wait for the day I can tell you how I feel.⠀

How in your arms I feel safe.⠀

How you are my fortress, my rock.⠀

How I find comfort in your voice, your body, and your presence.⠀

But right now I can’t,⠀

So when I need you I cry.⠀

Mama, ⠀

I see your tears too.⠀

I know it can be hard.⠀

In my short life we’ve already been through so much together, and I know we will get through this too.⠀

I know you don’t always feel like you are doing good, but mama you are more than just good, you are mine. ⠀

Mama,⠀

I love you.⠀

So tonight if I cry, know I don’t expect you to get it right, right away.⠀

I know you are trying to learn me, just as I’m trying to learn this world around me.⠀

Mama, we will get through this.⠀

One day at a time,⠀

One minute at a time,⠀

One cry at a time.⠀


By @ourmamavillage

💕



Lactation Cookies: Increasing Milk Supply

By Danelle Day, PhD © 2010


I am frequently asked to pass along lactation cookie recipes. My own momma has been baking these up since she was a nursing mother and RN, striving to help other new moms with their babies, 35 years ago -- so I've consumed my fair share over the decades. While there are many variations out there, they are all essentially the same and boast three main ingredients commonly believed (in North America) to impact milk supply: oatmeal, brewer's yeast, and flax.

Some home bakers will throw in fenugreek as well, and because this is known to increase milk supply (in both humans and cows!), but hard on the stomach, it isn't a bad idea to add it to foods you'll already be eating (you can open a couple capsules of fenugreek and toss them to the cookie batter). Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal herbs used for increasing milk supply, but to do so you will need to consume 1500mg of fenugreek, three times each day. (1) This is more than the recommended amount on the bottle, but the dosing printed on fenugreek labels is not intended to be for boosting milk supply. One study found that when enough fenugreek was consumed, milk supply doubled. (2) Note that while mother's milk teas (with fenugreek) may be a great supplement, and mood-enhancing to sip, you'd have to drink a lot of it to really see an impact. Capsules are a better way to go if you are planning to add fenugreek to your regimen.

So why are these three ingredients the core foundation in lactation cookies?


Oats (or oatmeal) are key in boosting milk supply because of the iron they contain that nursing moms are frequently in need of. Oats are also filling, dense with healthy calories - and nursing moms need calories! Oats are extremely nutritious and easy to work into the diet in a number of ways: cereals, granola, breads, casseroles, meatloaf, cookies - you can add oats to just about anything.Oats are also a great source of fiber. What does fiber have to do with milk supply? My 97 year old grandmother recently discussed the diets of her father's award winning, fatty-milk producing cows back in the 1920s. And guess what they did to increase milk supply? That's right -- boosted the fiber the cows had access to. Farmers have long known this trick, so I suppose milkin' moms can pick up on it too.


Brewer's yeast is an ingredient that has also long been touted to increase milk supply (although contested by some). Brewer's yeast is one of the best natural sources of B vitamins, which are essential to overall health of a nursing mom (and any woman). Even if milk supply were not impacted by brewer's yeast, the boost of energy (and increased sugar metabolism) that comes from brewer's yeast consumption is worth including it in lactation cookies (or other things you bake). Once again, looking back on decades past, women have long passed on the knowledge that sipping a deep, hearty beer (sister to brewer's yeast) has a positive effect on milk supply.


The oil from flax seed is considered by many to be a galactagogue (substance that improves lactation). It is also a great form of fiber. And, while it is again debated among those who believe in flax's galactagogue properties or not, one thing is certain: flax is power packed with omega-3 (essential fatty acids) that are absolutely crucial to a nursing mom's diet (as well as baby's diet, and all human health in general). Human milk is super charged with heavy amounts of omega-3 because the brain (rapidly growing in our babies) is dependent on these fatty acids. It is important that a mother not be deficient in omega-3 (something that many are) and risk her baby not getting enough for optimal health, development, and wellbeing. [Note: artificial forms of omega-3 in manufactured formulas do not respond in a baby's body in the same way that natural omega-3 from mother's milk does. Do not buy into the hype that formulas 'fortified with DHA' are good for your baby. Rather, these artificial baby formulas with DHA have been linked with diarrhea, dehydration, seizures.] That said, omega-3 from fish and flax for mom are wonderful! They not only improve milk quality (and possibly quantity) but also boost brain function, memory, joint lubrication, and help to regulate hormones and decrease postpartum depression. It is unlikely that you could get too much omega-3 today, so when it comes to flax (and low-mercury fish if you like) - eat up!

Before you jump on the lactation cookie making machine and fret about your milk supply, however, know that if you are exclusively breastfeeding (i.e. your baby is consuming nothing but your milk) around the clock (day and night), and your baby is gaining weight (no matter if s/he is in the 99th percentile for weight, or the 1st percentile compared to other babies) then you have a full milk supply suited perfectly for your little one. (3)

It is, of course, good to eat healthy, whole foods to ensure your baby is getting all s/he needs from your milk (and taking a prenatal vitamin while nursing is a good idea too), but studies have shown that even when mother's diet is not the best, her body will compensate (for the sake of her baby) by putting all nutrients into her milk. (4, 5) Therefore, your baby will not suffer as much as you will suffer from poor eating habits. Only in cases of severe malnourishment is milk quality impacted.

That being said, most nursing mothers need to consume a bare minimum of 1800 calories per day to maintain a full milk supply for their growing baby (some will need to eat more to not see a drop in milk), and consuming 2500-2700 calories per day is recommended by most. (6, 7) This is an energy need of 50-125% more than women had in their pre-pregnancy days. So no matter what you eat, do not forget to eat!

Below are two recipes. The first is a recipe for Major Milk Makin' galactagogue cookies ("lactation cookies") that share some similarities with the many generic cookie recipes commonly passed around and posted in a variety of recipe books. This one has just a touch more omega-3, protein, and iron than other "lactation cookies." It was created by Kathleen Major, PNP, RN, in conjunction with a local lactation specialist and LLL leader in the Cedar Valley (IA) hospitals in the early 1990s when Major was focusing her practice on pediatric health. She has granted permission for DrMomma.org to share her recipe. Please do not reproduce without crediting her and linking back to this page. The second recipe is my own, and while it is not as sweet (no sugar), it is all the more healthy and packed with beneficial ingredients. My cookies are slightly more like granola in cookie form -- you can be sure they are good for you, if this is your goal.

While no lactation cookie will miraculously boost your milk supply if there are other hormone related factors weighing on you, (for example, you are going to have to nurse and/or pump - increase demand - to increase supply, and be physically close to your baby - holding/wearing/rocking/sleeping, as much as possible), they certainly won't hurt -- may help a smidge -- and will ensure you are getting some good, wholesome (much needed!) calories packed with omega-3, nutrients, and goodness along the way.

If you enjoy baking and try out these recipes (or any other you find online or create yourself), please let me know your favorites. I'll admit I rarely stick straight to the recipe. I inherited my parents tendency to throw things into the batch (or leave things out if they aren't in my cupboard at the time). Some sesame seeds here, pumpkin seeds there...a bit of Fenugreek or a handful of sunflower seeds. I often substitute extra milled flax or applesauce for the butter, and toss in extra oats, or a scoop of almond butter if it looks like the batter can handle it. So if you are like me, and have additional special tips that make your homemade lactation cookie creations stand out among the milkin' moms - please, share!

A few notes on the recipes:

1) Flax seed is prepped many ways. The version most useful for baking is the milled flax seed that you will find in your local store. It typically comes in a bag or a box (depending on the brand you select). You may have to go to a health food, whole foods store, or large supermarket to find the brewer's yeast which typically comes in a can.

2) Whole oats should always be used - not 'quick' oats (the type that cook in a few minutes in the microwave). Be sure when you buy your oats ('oatmeal') that you are purchasing whole, natural oats.

3) I'd suggest purchasing eggs from a local farm or buying free range "happy chicken" eggs at your grocery store - especially with all the recalls on salmonella tainted eggs lately. And who wants to support the massive hen house operations? Not us. Be informed on where your food comes from, and teach your kids too.


Major Milk Makin' Cookies
Recipe by Kathleen Major
Detailed recipe with photos found here


1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c. oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 c. almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. flax
3 T brewer's yeast
1/3 c. water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 c. (12oz) chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat almond butter, butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, brewer's yeast, flax and water until creamy.
Mix in eggs.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Mix in nuts and chocolate chips.
Add oats slowly, mixing along the way.

Place balls of dough onto greased baking sheets or baking stones.
Press down each ball lightly with a fork.
Bake 12 minutes.


Momma's Milk Cookies
recipe by Danelle Day

2 eggs
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 c. flax
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. melted butter
2 c. Agave nectar
3/4 c. walnuts (crushed)
2 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. raisins
4 T water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 T brewer's yeast
3 c. oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

I have found greased cookie sheets work best, but you can also use parchment lined sheets or a baking stone.

In a bowl mix flax and water until thoroughly mixed.
In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt and brewer's yeast.
In another bowl mix together butter and ONE cup Agave nectar (the other cup will be used later). Stir well until the butter and nectar are completely mixed.
Add eggs to the nectar mix, stirring well after each one.
Add vanilla, stir.
Add the nectar blend to the flax and mix well. (A hand mixer or mixing bowl works best)
Pour the nectar/flax blend into the large bowl of flour and mix well.
Mix in walnuts, chocolate chips, raisins.
Mix in oats.
After everything is blended together well, add the applesauce and final 1 cup of Agave nectar and stir through well.

Scoop onto sheets, and press down each ball of dough lightly with a fork.
Bake 13-14 minutes.


Vegan options for both recipes:

In place of eggs - 3 tsp of egg replacer mixed with 4 T water OR 4 tsp of milled flax with 4 T water.

In place of butter - butter substitute like Earth Balance OR 3/4 the amount worth of Canola oil or Crisco (although Crisco is not a healthy option) OR 1/2 c. milled flax and 1/2 c. applesauce


Have the need for special lactation cookies, but no time to cook?
There are many lactation cookie producers now who sell and ship online.

(100% dairy free!)




Ordered cookies stay good for 6 months in the freezer (and taste good frozen too)! Several of these cookies have some added bonuses - pumpkin seeds, kelp, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, nettles, clover, peppermint, poppyseeds and Fenugreek. Making Mama's Milk & More Cookies are specially created by a mom herself, are organic and 100% dairy free. In addition, she recently started making a vegan lactation cookie for special order.

You can always add these extras into YOUR homemade lactation cookies (or muffins!) as well, but these are great shops for cookie purchasing if that's up your alley.



For more information on boosting milk supply, see:

Making More Milk: Breastfeeding, Supply and the Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation by Danelle Frisbie

The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk (book)

Breastfeeding Made Simple (book)

Nursing Mother, Working Mother (book)

Milk Supply in the First 6 Weeks by Paula Yount

Balancing Breastfeeding: When Moms Must Work by Danelle Frisbie, Ph.D, M.A. [includes suggestions that impact milk supply due to women's powerful hormones whether working away from baby or not]

Increasing the Milk Supply [pdf] by Dr. Carolyn Lawlor-Smith, BMBS, IBCLC, FRACGP and Dr. Laureen Lawlor-Smith, BMBS, IBCLC

How Can I Increase My Milk Supply? by Becky Flora, IBCLC

Increasing Milk Supply
by Janet Talmadge, IBCLC

Increasing Your Milk Supply by Anne Smith, IBCLC

Increasing Low Milk Supply on KellyMom.com

Human Milk Donors and Donations Resource Page (for those who find they must supplement their own supply)

Additional information for nursing mothers (books, websites, articles) can be found on the Breastfeeding Resources page.

The Breastfeeding Group for nursing moms: FB.com/groups/Breastfed


Notes:

1) Breastfeeding Made Simple, p.219

2) Swafford S, Berens P. Effect of fenugreek on breast milk volume. ABM News & Views. 6(3):21

Abo El-Nor S. Influence of fenugreek seeds as a galactagogue on milk yield. Egypt J Dairy Sci. 27:231-8.

3) Breastfeeding Made Simple, p.130

4) Lunn P, Prentice A, Austin S, Whitehead, R. Influence of maternal diet on plasma-prolactin levels during lactation. Lancet. 1(8169):623-5

5) Smith C. Effects of maternal undernutrition upon the newborn infant in Holland (1944-1945). Journal of Pediatrics. 30(3):229-43.

6) Strode M, Dewey K, Lonnerdal B. Effects of short-term caloric restriction on lactational performance of well-nourished women. Acta Paediatr Scand. 75(2):222-9.

7) Making More Milk, p.84


~~~~


Danelle Day specialized in lactation science and human health and development during her graduate training. After teaching and conducting research at the collegiate level, she left academia to pursue another passion - mothering. She is currently completing credentials to serve others as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and helps run the non-profit organization, peaceful parenting, and DrMomma.org.

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