Monday, May 16, 2016

Oat Nut Lactation Bars

Before the baby, I baked a ton of oat nut lactation bars and was so glad I did. They've since become a regular snack in my kitchen. They are low in sugar with just enough sweetness while providing a satisfying punch of protein and energy, which is important for new moms. I especially loved eating them when I was up in the middle of the night and hungry. I'd heard about being ravenous from breastfeeding and needing to eat at night. I scoffed at this, confused by the idea of being so hungry you'd leave the comforts of bed for the kitchen. What I didn't realize is that I would be up and about at all hours of the night anyway, because I needed to pump and feed my baby supplemental milk after most nursing sessions during the first month.

I adapted the recipe from the Muesli Snacking Cookies on the Kitchn. The muesli in the name is misleading, because the recipe was written by someone in the UK where muesli must be found more readily. Really, you just need rolled oats and whatever other healthy and fun add-ins you want. I chose to include all kinds of seeds and nuts, as well as coconut flakes and sometimes chocolate chips to give it a sweet pow. I also added brewer's yeast, which along with oatmeal, is traditionally thought to help boost milk supply. There is not actually scientific evidence to prove this claim for either ingredient, but they are nevertheless nutritious. And as a new mother who dealt with low supply in the beginning, I wanted to do everything I could to increase my supply. However, you don't need to be a nursing mother to enjoy these bars!

You could make these as cookies, but I find it easier and faster to spread the batter in a pan and slice it into bars afterward. This makes 24-48 bars depending on how large you make them. It sounds like a lot -- but believe me, you will be glad you made a big batch. I store them in the freezer so they will last a couple weeks. I like to eat mine straight out of the freezer, but they also taste wonderful toasted and warm. 

Side note into new mom paranoia: I replaced the honey in the original recipe with maple syrup, which works just as well. I did make my first batch with honey, but then started wondering whether that was okay since you aren't supposed to feed infants honey because it's a potential source of infant botulism. Yes, it's fine for moms to eat honey, but what about the fact that I'm always sticking my hands in or near my baby's mouth while she's nursing? And that I often wanted to eat a bar right before pumping milk? I looked into it, and all I could find is a recommendation that "thorough hand washing practices should be strictly adhered to, especially in households where honey is regularly consumed by family members." So I decided I'd rather just make them with maple syrup and not have to worry about religiously cleaning up crumbs and my hands afterward. I guess I won't be baking with honey for the next year...

Oat Nut Lactation Bars

1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups oats

Optional add-ins:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup brewers yeast

Stir the peanut butter, maple syrup and eggs until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, as well as the ground flax and brewers yeast if using. Then stir in the oats and other add-ins - you might find it easiest to use your hands.

Form into cookies or spread about an inch thick on a greased pan - usually takes up about three-quarters of my 12 inch x 17 inch sheet pan.Bake at 350 for 15 min. Let cool on the pan and then slice into bars.