Does This Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Flavor Really Boost Breast Milk Supply?

Lactation consultants respond to the latest rumor.
02/09/2017 04:10pm ET

The internet is swirling with rumors about one of Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavors following a report about its potential benefit to breastfeeding mothers.

Last week, published an article about the ice cream brand’s new “Oat of this Swirled” flavor.

Ben & Jerrys
A piece on suggested that one of Ben & Jerry's new ice cream flavors could help boost breast milk supply.

The piece notes that the 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.”

Following Romper’s story, reports of the ice cream flavor’s potential to boost supply quickly circulated around many parenting websites like PopSugar Moms, Scary Mommy and Today’s Parent.

But lactation consultants are hesitant to tell moms to stock their freezers.

“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.

Ben & Jerrys
Lactation consultants are hesitant to recommend the ice cream flavor as a way to address low supply.

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.”

West also emphasized that a breastfeeding mother’s diet is important inasmuch as eating well nourishes her body and maintains her health. But her breast milk should be nutritionally complete and able to meet her baby’s needs whether or not she eats a balanced diet and implements certain nutrients.

Writing for Scary Mommy, IBCLC Wendy Wisner also cautioned against putting too much stock in the supposed milk-boosting capacity of many galactagogues.

“[T]he 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,” she wrote, adding that the evidence of oats’ ability to boost supply tends to be anecdotal and likely demonstrates the placebo effect.

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A spokesperson for Ben & Jerry’s told HuffPost that though the company has not seen any scientific studies to back up the assertion.

Instead of diet, Wisner said she believes mothers and lactation consultants should mainly focus on things like hormonal imbalances, latch problems and breast tissue when trying to increase milk production.

A spokesperson for Ben & Jerry’s told HuffPost that though the company has not seen any scientific studies to back up the Romper’s assertion, “We love moms, and if eating Oat of this Swirled makes them happier and more productive, all the better.”

The ice cream flavor’s potential benefit to breastfeeding mothers has yet to be tested. As Bouchet-Horwitz noted, “The only way to know if it works, is to try lots of women and then see the results.”

Oat of this Swirled is set to hit grocery store shelves in the coming week, according to the company website. If you’re a breastfeeding mom and observe a supply boost after eating this new flavor, please let us know. And if not, enjoy your dessert, regardless!