Cookie business helps new mothers with breastfeeding
When Myah Ballentine started making lactation cookies three years ago, selling them was the last thing on her mind. Her only goal was to increase her breast milk production for her twin girls, Karter and Karsyn, a month old.
“When I found out I was pregnant I really wanted to breastfeed,” she said. “But I had no idea how challenging it was going to be. They never got full from just nursing. I was so stressed. I felt like I was not doing my part as a mother.”
Formula made her daughters projectile vomit. She tried yoga, but that did not work. She drank teas with fenugreek, an herb that helps with breastfeeding, but she could not stand the taste.
Then she found recipes for lactation cookies using ingredients such as flaxseed, oatmeal and brewers yeast, all items known to help. Baking was more up her street. In high school she ran her own baking business A Touch of Sprinkles, selling cookies and other baked goods to her classmates.
“Baking is my Zen place,” she said. “it does not feel like work when I am in the kitchen.”
Making the cookies, she saw an immediate increase in breast milk.
“I knew I had struck gold,” the 21-year-old said. “The first time I made the cookies my breast milk increased by 6oz.”
Soon, she not only had enough to feed her girls, but also to store for the next feeding.
Her babies were 4lbs 10oz and 4lbs 12oz at birth. Now they started putting on weight.
“My friend, who was also breastfeeding, came over and tried a couple of cookies,” Ms Ballentine said. “Before she left my house, we noticed an increase in her milk. She said wow, you need to make this into a business.”
Soon, more friends were asking for the cookies, and then family members.
“The next thing I knew everyone was asking for some and it turned into a business,” she said.
Mama Leche was born, providing nursing mothers with milk enhancing cookies, cookie dough, muffins and other baked goods. She sells out of grocery stores such as Harrington Hundreds, Lindo’s and the Plant Based Vegan Grocery.
“I do still take orders but most of my production runs to the grocery store sales,” she said. “But I am still very active in baking and interacting with clients.”
Selling her cookie dough and cookies through local grocery stores works well for Ms Ballentine.
“Customers don’t have to wait,” she said. “They can just go to the store and pick out what they want. If they get the dough, they are not obligated to bake a dozen cookies all at once. They can make as many as they need at one time.”
The first cookie flavour she made was chocolate chip, but since then she has added many other flavours, such as birthday cake, Smores and fruity pebble flecks. Her most popular, however, is cookies and cream.
Ms Ballentine also takes flavour requests.
“One customer recently asked me for chocolate chip and coconut,” she said. “I made that happen.”
But she said flavour combinations are limited to the availability of ingredients in Bermuda.
One of the most challenging aspects of running Mama Leche has been balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship. The twins are now 3 years old.
“It is all about making sure that my time is split, not evenly, but enough to where they know it is all about them,” she said. “I don’t ever put my work above being a mommy. If I have to, I will e-mail my clients and say hey, there is a delay on your order.”
Normally, her daughters are in preschool, but the latest lockdown meant they were at home with her.
“With them at home, I can not bake all day, every day like I did before,” she said. “Our production was a little bit slower. I handle it pretty well. I will set up play time where they will do their puzzles and read books, or I bake while they nap.”
She is scheduled to start a new full-time job in a spa, soon.
“I will bake the cookies on weekends,” she said.
Ms Ballentine has had a few meetings with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.
“They led me in the right direction,” she said. “They taught me how to do my taxes and things.”
She would like to eventually branch out and hire staff.
She has just released a commercial which includes footage of Karter and Karsyn baking. They can crack eggs like pros.
“They are brand ambassadors,” she said. “They help out with the marketing part.”
• For more information see her on Facebook, and Instagram @mamalechebda, telephone 516-3765 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org