SINGAPORE: “Eat, breastfeed, repeat” - that’s the tagline for a shop that opened last month in the heartlands specialising in bakes for the new mum.
Ms Joanna Goy, 31, is among a growing number of home bakers who have taken to offering cookies, muffins and brownies that purportedly help lactating mothers produce more milk.
The response has been so good since Ms Goy started her online business, Singapore Lactation Bakes (SLB), in 2015 that she and her husband quit their banking jobs to establish a brick-and-mortar presence at The Promenade at Pelikat mall in Kovan.
“We started out getting about 30 orders a month. Now we get up to 500,” said the mother of three. “When the demand started increasing, we moved operations to a shared kitchen, but even that wasn’t enough so we decided to set up a proper shop.”
Currently, the SLB store is a simple kitchen where the couple, together with an assistant, prepare cookies and muffins in flavours like butterscotch and oats, strawberry cream cheese and even Maltesers, which customers can collect over the counter. In time, Ms Goy, who is training to become a lactation counsellor, hopes to turn it into a space where her mummies clientele can interact with experts and each other.
“We only had door-to-door delivery, but with a physical shop, customers can collect their own orders and grab other products as well. We’ll also be providing takeaway drinks such as lactation lemon tea and chocolate, which are not available in the market yet,” said Ms Goy.
Ms Farhana Noor Mohamed is another home baker who has seen her business growing rapidly. The 32-year-old said she “needed a boost” after discovering she had a bun in the oven while still nursing her firstborn.
“I tried a variety of methods. I incorporated foods like salmon, soya bean and ajwa dates into my diet, and ate store-bought lactation cookies,” she said. “Some worked, some didn’t, some just didn’t taste good.
“Those that worked, I had to keep eating to maintain the boost. It got too expensive, especially for a stay-at-home mum, so I decided to bake my own cookies.”
Three years on, demand for Ms Farhana’s brand M3 Milk Making Mummy, has grown so much she has had to limit her orders to 40 bags a week to keep it manageable. She has also started hiring part-time riders, mostly students, to do deliveries. From just two flavours - ajwa and basic oats - M3 now offers six and also takes custom orders including those with no sugar for mothers who suffer from gestational diabetes.
“Ajwa chocolate chip and cranberry are my bestsellers,” Ms Farhana revealed. “I make S$600 a month just from those flavours.”
For some, the specialty bakes have been so popular they’ve outshone their regular cakes.
Ms Marian Wong, a 31-year-old business manager and founder of Marian’s Bakes, was only baking for friends when they started requesting for lactation cookies in 2015.
“The cookies worked for my friends, who then shared it with their friends. As time goes on, enquiries about my lactation goodies grew bigger than those about my other bakes,” she said.
Ms Wong has gone from selling just a pack a month to around 100 packs, and now offers muffins - her top-selling item. She changes the menu as often as twice monthly to keep things exciting for regulars, whom she said order from her “even when they don’t need the boost”.
On top of muffins like caramelised banana butterscotch and strawberry jam swirl, Ms Wong also offers, on occasion and for a limited time, items like Thai tea muffins and butterscotch drizzle blondies.
Ms Siska Rini didn’t start out with lactation cookies either. Super Shaq Cookies were named after her seven-year-old son, whom she was trying to get to eat healthy.
“You can never go wrong with chocolate chip cookies when it comes to children. To get him excited about eating healthy, we would bake together and add ingredients like almonds and flaxseed to the batter,” said the 36-year-old, who quit her training executive job in Doha to be home with her family and was on a look-out for home-based work.
“I realised these ingredients were milk boosters after friends who ate my cookies reported producing more milk,” she said. “It was a happy coincidence!”
THE PROOF IS IN THE COOKIE
Do they really work? Yes, going by testimonials left behind by customers on the bakers' social media pages. It's also become a custom for mothers to Whatsapp photos of their pumping efforts to the sellers.
"I find it very satisfying to receive messages from mummies who achieve results, especially those who had tried 'everything' and were sceptical. Some even send me photos of the inside of their fridge, well-stocked with milk!" said Ms Wong.
Ms Kang Phaik Gaik, senior lactation consultant at Mount Alvernia Hospital, said the efficacy of the cookies lies in the galactogogues (substances containing nutrients that support and promote breast milk production) they contain.
"As lactation consultants, we don't recommend specific products to our clients - we correct their latching technique. But I do have clients tell me they have seen increased milk supply after eating lactation cookies, and I just say okay, as long as it's hygienic."
"Ingredients matter," said Ms Kang. "These cookies are made with known milk boosters like brewer's yeast. Oats and herbs like fenugreek also help."
Some home bakers provide their customers with learning material to help them get the most of the products. New SLB customers get digital pamphlets with information like how many to eat and what to expect.
“Some mummies react faster to the herbs, others slower. I’m a slow and low yielder so I eat more, but there are some mummies who need to eat less and that’s okay.
“Like the tagline, I encourage mummies to eat, pump and repeat often so as to stimulate their brain to make more milk. The effect takes several days to show," said Ms Goy.
New mothers told Channel NewsAsia that homemade bakes sold online fulfil all the requirements of an anxious modern mum.
“I choose to buy from home bakers because their products are freshly baked, have no additives and contain natural and organic ingredients,” said Ms Nurwahidah Nordin.
She said that while her milk boosters of choice are dates and organic oats first, cookies are a good secondary option.
“They’re best for when I’m on the go, at work or snacking while watching Netflix,” she said, adding that she buys them from Instagram sellers like Mamalait and Super Shaq Cookies.
“Results vary,” said Ms Nurwahidah. “Sometimes, I’ll get a boost within a few hours of eating the cookies, but most of the time I only see a difference a day after. My milk supply increases by 50ml to 70ml each time, which I consider just moderate. I know some mums who see more extreme results.”
Admin executive Zam said she worried at first about how lactation cookies, which are usually made with olive oil, not butter, would taste.
“I bought a packet of dark chocolate and raspberry cookies from Mamalait and they were so tasty I ate three at one go,” she said. “Now that I know I like the taste, I’m definitely buying more.”
Like Ms Nurwahidah, Ms Zam noticed a difference in her milk supply after eating the cookies regularly - about 15ml to 20ml each time. She also said she prefers Instagram sellers because they are prompt to respond to queries and can accommodate requests for reduced sugar due to her history with gestational diabetes.
“Of course, the convenience of shopping from home tops it all,” she said.