Guest Blog: The Contented Calf

by Elena Cimelli, The Contented Company 

It takes a village! And in our Guest Blog series, Elena Cimelli , a Mumpreneur & ‘eco gal’ and author of: The Contented Calf : Nourishing Recipes for Breastfeeding Mums, explains about lactogenic foods, shares her experience of her own breastfeeding journey and her favourite Sweet Treat recipe from her book. If you have any more questions for Elena, or are interested in reading her book The Contented Calf or receive 5 free Breastfeeding recipes you can visit The Contented Company


What inspired you to write The Contented Calf Cookbook?

 Prepare and freeze as many meals as you can, ahead of the baby being born

Hearing this advice at one of our ante-natal classes, must have sparked off some primeval ‘hunter-gather’ instinct in my husband. He took it to an extreme, organising us into a few marathon cooking and freezing sessions and we ended up with around 50 meal portions, lasting us months!

Elena Cimelli, The Contented Company

Elena Cimelli, The Contented Company

It’s hilarious, and makes me giggle every time I remember back to our freezer at that time – stuff full of silver foil containers of all our food.  This was his way to prepare for our little arrival in the best way he could.  And I love him (and laugh at him) for it.

But I shouldn’t laugh too much - those meals were invaluable for us. We could have nutritious, home cooked food every night, simply by turning on the oven and heating it up. They were absolute bliss - especially in our over-tired, shell-shocked, new-parent state.

Thinking about our mammoth cooking and freezing session, and wondering if those meals could have been made from lactogenic ingredients, was how The Contented Calf Cookbook started life.

What are lactogenic foods and how can these help with Breastfeeding?

Milk production works on a supply-and-demand basis: the more baby breastfeeds, the more your body produces milk. Luckily, there are certain foods that can help you make more milk if you need a little boost. Lactogenic foods, also known as galactagogues, contain phytoestrogens and other chemical properties that stimulate lactation and boost your milk supply.

Can you recommend some lactogenic foods that you can add to a breastfeed diet?

Oats – Oats contain plant estrogens, which have been associated with the stimulation of milk glands. It also has a fiber called Beta-glucan, which can increase the levels of prolactin (a hormone that is responsible for producing milk) in the bloodstream.

Fennel – Both fennel and fennel seeds have phytoestrogens that stimulate lactation. But fennel seeds, a kind of herb that is used for seasoning, is particularly great because they also treat other uncomfortable symptoms like indigestion, stomach ache and trapped wind. You can sip on fennel tea or add fennel to your side dishes.

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Dark leafy greens – think…Spinach, kale, collard greens and broccoli are nutrient powerhouses that are traditionally used to support and promote lactation. They all contain phytoestrogens and are packed with minerals, calcium and iron that great for your energy and your immune system.

Flax seed - Flax seeds have estrogenic properties that can help breastfeeding Mums make more milk. Whole flaxseeds work better than the ground powder kind, and flaxseed oil provide healthy fats that are a healthy component of breast milk to promote a child's brain development. You can sprinkle flaxseeds on your cereals and salads.

Almonds - High in proteins and fatty acids, nuts are a great addition to your diet and have been considered galactagogues for years. Almonds are some of the best nuts to improve milk production. You can eat them raw or drink almond milk. Crushing them onto your porridge is also a great way to get milk-making benefits from both foods.

There are also foods thought to help remedy problems with let-down or flow, listed in Hilary Jacobson’s book Mother Food’.

As with anything, moderation is key. Some lactogenic foods can have side effects like over-supply, mastitis and sucking problems. Remember also that the more you breastfeed (and empty your breasts out), the more efficient these milk-boosting foods can be.

Can you share any advice on your own breastfeeding journey?

These 4 things helped me on my own breastfeeding journey:

1.   Learn a little bit about how breastmilk production works

For me, learning how breastmilk is produced, which hormones are involved (Prolactin and Oxytocin), what they control and how they can be increased was very helpful. It helped me understand why various pieces of breastfeeding advice were given to me. Prolactin controls the amount of milk produced, and Oxytocin the flow or ‘let-down’ of the milk.

You can find out more about breastmilk production by reading Elena’s really helpful blog post: Breastmilk Production & Diet

2.   Get support with your latch early on

I was extremely lucky with my first daughter – within minutes of being born she latched on perfectly. However, with my second we struggled with her latch – so I know from experience the pain this can cause! We saw a cranial osteopath, who discovered she had strained her neck during her (fast and furious) delivery, which was impeding her latching on properly. The pain relief was instant and the improvement in her feeding was dramatic.  

(Our Resources Page has local Cranial Osteopath & Breastfeeding Consultant recommendations)

3.   Feed frequently in the beginning to establish milk supply

I made sure each feed was as effective as it could be, and as long as it needed to be. That way I found my daughters could go for a little longer between each feed, were a little bit hungrier before each feed, and therefore more effectively emptied my breasts. However you do it, frequent milk removal in the first several weeks of feeding is KEY – it increases the number of Prolactin receptor sites. The more receptors, more Prolactin can flow into the milk producing cells, and milk production capacity increases. 

4. Stay hydrated, nourished and get the support you need, you and your baby and working this out together.

Can you recommended additional support for Breastfeeding Mums?

Yes of course! But please not that I am not trained in breastfeeding support in anyway. These are just things that helped me when I was feeding. Please seek out properly trained qualified professionals (see our Resources page) and get their advice.

These following people and organisations are an excellent starting point.

Can you share a recipe from you book?

Recipe for Fig & Walnut Cookies (vegetarian – freezeable)

The combination of figs, walnuts and fennel seeds in these cookies is irresistibly good. Gorgeous on their own or try them with vanilla ice cream for added indulgence.

·       40 minutes to prepare + freezing

·       12-15 minutes total cooking time

·       Makes 56 cookies


·       300g plain flour (use can also use Gluten free flour)

·       1½ tsp baking powder

·       300g butter, softened

·       250g soft light brown sugar

·       3 medium eggs, beaten

·       200g soft, dried ready-to-eat figs, finely chopped

·       200g walnuts, chopped

·       1 tsp fennel seeds


1.    Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in a small pinch of salt. Set aside.

2.    Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until combined.

3.    Stir in the figs, walnuts and fennel seeds. Fold in the flour to make a thick, sticky dough.

4.    Divide the dough into 4 and shape into 4 logs, approximately 15cm long and 4cm high. Wrap in a double layer of freezer-wrap and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. 

5.    Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190°C/375°F / fan oven 170°C/340°F

6.    Using a sharp knife, slice the logs of chilled cookie dough into 1cm thick rounds and place the cookies on 4 large baking trays, well spaced apart. 

7.    Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden - the cookies will spread a lot as they bake.

8.    Lift the cookies off the baking tray with a palette knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Eat within 3 days.


The dough freezes really well. Slice the logs into 1cm thick cookies and open freeze on baking trays or plates until solid. Store the cookies in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Bake them from frozen. They’ll takeapproximately 15 minutes at gas mark 5 / 190°C/375°F / fan oven 170°C/340°F

Lucy Horton