Establishing milk supply in your baby's first weeks

Hearing “Prepare and freeze as many meals as you can, ahead of the baby being born” at one of our ante-natal classes, must have sparked off some primeval ‘hunter-gather’ instinct in my husband. He took it to an extreme, organising us into a few marathon cooking and freezing sessions and we ended up with around 50 meal portions, lasting us months!

It’s hilarious, and makes me giggle every time I remember back to our freezer at that time – stuff full of silver foil containers of all our food. This was his way to prepare for our little arrival in the best way he could. And I love him (and laugh at him) for it.

But I shouldn’t laugh too much - those meals were invaluable for us. We could have nutritious, home cooked food every night, simply by turning on the oven and heating it up. They were absolute bliss - especially in our over-tired, shell-shocked, new-parent state.

Thinking about our mammoth cooking and freezing session, and wondering if those meals could have been made from lactogenic ingredients, was how The Contented Calf Cookbook started life.

Certain (lactogenic) foods and herbs increase the level of Prolactin in our bloodstream, helping our bodies to produce more milk. And with regards to Oxytocin, eating meals and snacks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels (hunger can induce stress), which actually suppress Oxytocin production. There are also foods thought to help remedy problems with let-down or flow, listed in Hilary Jacobson’s book “Mother Food”.

Of course, foods and herbs only play part of a successful breastfeeding experience, as you can see from the equation above. But every little helps, and you may find a lactogenic diet helps. You can find out much more about breast milk production and diet at, including a list of lactogenic (and anti-lactogenic) foods.

These three things helped me on my own breastfeeding journey:

Learn a little bit about how breastmilk production works

For me, learning how breastmilk is produced, which hormones are involved (Prolactin and Oxytocin), what they control and how they can be increased was very helpful. It helped me understand why various pieces of breastfeeding advice were given to me. Prolactin controls the amount of milk produced, and Oxytocin the flow or ‘let-down’ of the milk. You can find out more HERE

Get support with your latch early on

I was extremely lucky with my first daughter – within minutes of being born she latched on perfectly. However, with my second we struggled with her latch – so I know from experience the pain this can cause! We saw a cranial osteopath, who discovered she had strained her neck during her (fast and furious) delivery, which was impeding her latching on properly. The pain relief was instant and the improvement in her feeding was dramatic.

Feed frequently in the beginning to establish milk supply

I made sure each feed was as effective as it could be, and as long as it needed to be. That way I found my daughters could go for a little longer between each feed, were a little bit hungrier before each feed, and therefore more effectively emptied my breasts. However you do it, frequent milk removal in the first several weeks of feeding is KEY – it increases the number of Prolactin receptor sites. The more receptors, more Prolactin can flow into the milk producing cells, and milk production capacity increases.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not trained in breastfeeding support in anyway. These are just things that helped me when I was feeding. Please seek out properly trained qualified professionals and get their advice. These following two organisations are an excellent starting point.
  1. La Leche League USA

  2. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®)

last but not least we have a special recipe for you!

Fig and walnut cookies

(vegetarian – freezeable)

The combination of figs, walnuts and fennel seeds in these cookies is irresistibly good. Gorgeous on their own or try them with vanilla ice cream for added indulgence.
  • 40 minutes to prepare + freezing

  • 12-15 minutes total cooking time

  • Makes 56 cookies

  • 300g / 10oz / 1 2/3 cups plain flour

  • 7.5ml / 1½ tsp baking powder

  • 300g / 10 oz / 1 1/4 cups butter, softened

  • 250g / 8 oz / 1 cup soft light brown sugar

  • 3 medium eggs, beaten

  • 200g / 7 oz / 1 cup soft, dried ready-to-eat figs, finely chopped

  • 200g / 7oz / 1 cup walnuts, chopped

  • 5ml / 1 tsp fennel seeds


  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in a small pinch of salt. Set aside.

  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until combined.

  3. Stir in the figs, walnuts and fennel seeds. Fold in the flour to make a thick, sticky dough.

  4. Divide the dough into 4 and shape into 4 logs, approximately 15cm long and 4cm high. Wrap in a double layer of freezer-wrap and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

  5. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190°C/375°F / fan oven 170°C/340°F

  6. Using a sharp knife, slice the logs of chilled cookie dough into 1cm thick rounds and place the cookies on 4 large baking trays, well spaced apart.

  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden - the cookies will spread a lot as they bake.

  8. Lift the cookies off the baking tray with a palette knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Eat within 3 days.


The dough freezes really well. Slice the logs into 1cm thick cookies and open freeze on baking trays or plates until solid. Store the cookies in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Bake them from frozen. They’ll take approximately 15 minutes at gas mark 5/190°C/fan oven 170°C.

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