When Jess Beveridge was breastfeeding her three babes, she struggled. Plagued with mastitis and a fluctuating milk supply, Jess found solace in a homemade batch of lactation cookies. Now, Jess is helping other mums through her business, which has been recognised with the Sunshine Coast Business Award for sustainability.
With a whisk in hand, eight-year-old Millie mixes the chocolate chip cookie dough with her 10-year-old brother Lachie. Their three-year-old sister Darcie watches on – she’s waiting for the best part, hand-rolling the mixture!
Watching her three healthy kids whip up a batch of lactation cookies makes Jess Beveridge’s heart swell, after all it’s a very special recipe, which helped her through a difficult time.
“I used to make lactation cookies with my kids. I had awful mastitis and my supply was always up and down and lactation cookies worked for me,” she says.
“Then when I was on maternity leave, having just had Darcie, a good friend of mine was about to have her second baby. She’d had so much trouble with her first baby and she’s not the sort of person to ask for help, so I made a dry mix for her to mix up at home.
“We were quite broke at the time, so I posted the leftover mixes on the locals Facebook page and they sold out within a couple of minutes and then within a couple of days I had people asking for more and asking specifically for me. The next week a midwife was wanting them and wanting to promote them. From then I’ve had orders every single day and it’s just taken off.”
What makes lactation cookies so special is the ingredients are all natural and classed as galactogogues, which is a Greek name used for a group of foods that help stimulate breast milk supply. Active galactogogue ingredients include brewer’s yeast, organic flaxseed meal and organic oats, which Jess says have been shown to help stimulate the hormone substance called prolactin that helps produce breast milk.
“Sometimes mums go through bouts where they get sick or bub gets sick and sometimes all they need is a quick boost and they’re back on track again. If they have no issues with milk supply, or if they want to go back to work and they want to start pumping again, they can have a few cookies and start pumping, they may not need anymore because your body gets used to the amount it needs to produce.”
Drawing on her own experiences with each of her children, Jess is “crazy-passionate” about wanting to help other mums struggling with their milk supply and in 2015 launched The Milk Pantry.
“I’m so passionate about it because of my own struggles, there was no one here to help me and support me and I feel like I can help, so why not,” she says.
“It’s awful, you feel like you’re drowning, especially if you have postnatal depression; you’re tired, you’re trying to look after this child that doesn’t come with a manual and it’s the most stressful feeling not being able to feed your baby enough, especially when you have so much pressure to not use formula and ‘breast is best’.
“It’s exhausting and it’s emotionally draining – I’m emotional even now and it’s years later.”
Last year, Jess was recognised for the multi-faceted sustainable practices within her business with the 2017 Sunshine Coast Business Sustainability Award.
“The sustainability award is about showing that your business has a sustainable impact on the environment and for me, The Milk Pantry does it in so many ways, through using natural products and Australian-made products,” she says.
“But also, in helping mums breastfeed we’re reducing waste of formula, reducing bottles and packaging, and we’re improving the health rates as well, if you have healthier kids, you’re going to have healthier adults and put less stress on the healthcare system. It has a snowball effect.”
Over the past three years, Jess has experienced organic growth in her business to the point she’s stocked in 25 stores across Australia and three overseas, and is in the process of building her own commercial kitchen at her home, to provide greater flexibility in running a business and keeping up with the demands that come with motherhood.
What started as a batch of lactation cookies has grown into a whole range of products including brownies, hot chocolates and lactation chocolate, and the most recent addition, protein shakes.
“New mums become so self conscious about how they look and their weight, but their milk supply drops as soon as they start doing too much strenuous exercise, so I want to start helping mums with this new challenge and make sure they’re being looked after.”
Rolling out the last of the cookies and placing them on the tray, Millie and Lachie each take a spoon of mixture and pop it in their mouths, erupting into fits of laughter. This is what Jess works so hard for and it’s a beautiful thing seeing her reap the rewards.