A month ago, Romper.com published an article about the Ben & Jerry's new ice cream, “Oat of this Swirled” flavor claiming that it would help boost milk supply for lactating mothers. As a lactating mother myself, I decided I need to investigate this claim. Anytime anyone implies that a dessert will help me have more milk, it's worth looking into.
It's well known that what you eat can affect your breastmilk. Breastmilk is subject to changes in flavor and can increase and decrease based on diet. It's also been a longstanding belief that oatmeal increases milk supply. So this new flavor contains oats, which many lactation consultants consider to be a galactagogue ― a substance believed to increase breast milk supply.
“Oats contain saponins, which along with many other benefits, are thought to increase the milk making hormones lactating moms produce,” the author wrote. “So if a bowl of plain oatmeal or a batch of freshly baked oat-based lactation cookies isn’t cutting it for you, it’s hard to argue with throwing in a bowl of Oat of This Swirled for good measure.”
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Huffington Post came back with a rebuttal article:
“While it’s true that oats can increase milk production in *some* mothers, depending on many structural and hormonal factors, it is NOT one of the most potent galactagogues, and it needs to be ingested in MUCH larger quantities that it would be possible ― and reasonable ― to eat through ice cream,” international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and La Leche League director of media relations, Diana West, told The Huffington Post in an email.
New York Milk Bank executive director and IBCLC, Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, echoed West’s sentiments. “I help women with low milk supply all the time, but when I’m really trying to increase a milk supply, oats are not my first food of choice,” she told HuffPost. “It can’t hurt though.”
IBCLC Wendy Wisner (writing for Scary Mommy) also cautioned against putting too much stock in the supposed milk-boosting capacity of many galactagogues:
"Well, first of all, most breastfeeding mothers don’t actually have milk supply issues, and the idea that a mom has to eat or drink anything special is a myth that perpetuates the idea that women are somehow unable to breastfeed their babies with the bodies (and boobs) they were born with."
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A myth I'm not super interested in perpetuating. So can eating this ice cream actually boost milk supply? If it does, the reason is this:
When it comes to the “milk ejection reflex” (i.e., your milk “letting down), relaxation and all those warm fuzzy feelings are proven to have a positive effect on releasing oxytocin, the hormone that causes the “letdown.” So perhaps just the mere thought that a mom is ingesting something that will boost her supply relaxes her enough to get her milk flowing.
But even if it’s just a placebo — if the cozy comforts of oats, and probably also the creamy comforts of the ice cream itself, work their magic despite the lack of evidence — what’s the problem?
The problem is that instead of wasting time telling Moms to go eat some fancy ice cream, we should be educating moms on what really matters. Feeding babies on demand and often is truly the best way to boost milk supply, not eating special foods. It is a supply and demand system, and unfortunately eating a bunch of ice cream has no effect on that.
The best thing you can do if you're struggling with low supply is see your health care provider and find some support. Resources like Kellymom.com and La Leche League are available to help as well and can point you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to seek help early when it comes to breastfeeding struggles!
So will I be eating some of this yummy Ben & Jerry's? Yes, yes I will. Why? Because breastfeeding has got me all HUNGRY.
See more at TodaysMama.com!