Galactagogue (not short for galactic synagogue)

galactagogue (n.) – something that promotes lactation

example: Brewer’s yeast is a galactagogue, but nutritional yeast is not.

Of all the things I thought I might write about today, a word that directly relates to lactation would have been very far down on my list. I do not have children and I don’t intend to for a while yet, so anything to do with lactation, poo receptacles that we tie around tiny human waists or squeezing very large things out of normally tiny holes is not much on my agenda. But for several of my friends, this has become the case. The constantly-posted-to-Facebook case. I was able to maintain my distance from this world, getting by with only the obligatory cute-baby-photo likes when new ones popped out… until one came out of my very close friend. This is a woman who is the closest thing to a sister an only child can have. This new baby is the closest thing to a nephew I’ll ever have. The obligatory likes no longer suffice.

So when my friend confided that she’s having lactation problems and wants to make “lactation cookies”, I roped myself into helping her hunt down the ingredients. Not without first expressing my disgust at calling them “lactation cookies”, though. Fortunately they are cookies meant to help a new mother increase her breast milk supply, not cookies made of the stuff. The little treats themselves are galactagogues; which sound something more to us like an abbreviated word for “Galactic Synagogues”. (Wouldn’t those be interesting?)

I digress.

Most of the ingredients are your basic cookie-type things: butter, milk, sugar, eggs, etc. However, the key ingredient is something called Brewer’s Yeast. At first, my friend understood this to be yeast used in the process of making beer. On this assumption, I suggested we check a local home brewer’s supply shop. Fortunately, I thought to Google this first. As it turns out, Brewer’s Yeast is a by-product of the brewing process and entirely distinct from the active yeast used during brewing. It is also different from, and not to be confused with, Baker’s yeast and Nutritional yeast. Even though sometimes people call Brewer’s Yeast “Nutritional Brewer’s Yeast”. How confusing can they make this stuff?

Anyway… after more research than I ever expected to do on yeast and its relation to producing breast milk, we found the information we were looking for. While Baker’s and Nutritional yeasts would be just fine for baking cookies, they would not produce the desired effect: more milk. The reason being that Brewer’s Yeast is unique in the fact that it is a galactic synagogue galactagogue. New mothers make cookies with it because Brewer’s Yeast is, on its own, bitter. (Just a spoon full of sugar…) Many young women had been directed toward Nutritional Yeast at vitamin stores because, well, that seems logical when the purpose is baking cookies. Why would you want the bitter grossness to bake with? Nutritional Yeast is packed with nutritional things and isn’t disgusting! …but it will not improve your breast milk production.

Also, asparagus is apparently also a galactagogue.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have cause to use the word ‘galactagogue’, but I’ve definitely added it to my repertoire. Perhaps I’ll give one of my future characters a lactation issue…


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