After nine-plus months of baby-growing-in-my-body sobriety, I was overjoyed at the prospect of having a cold beer to celebrate the birth of my son. That first brew was made even better after a fellow mom friend told me that drinking a pint of milk stout was actually beneficial. "After all," she said, "it's good for milk production." Sign me up.
While not everyone agrees on whether a nursing mother should consume alcohol and many doctors frown on the practice, using dark beer to increases the flow of breast milk has been a practice since the ancient Egyptians started making beer 5,000 years ago.
The science behind this thinking lies in a certain polysaccharide that increases prolactin, a milk-production hormone. It can be found in barley, which is of course one of the main ingredients in beer. Oats, too, are thought to help with a mother's milk supply, as is the vitamin-B-heavy brewer's yeast. So when my friend delivered a container of soup and bottle of Guinness, I decided to go with the flow.
In fact, it wasn't too long ago when Irish mothers were given a bit of Guinness after childbirth. The reason, aside from the country's love for its most famous beer, was due to the use of both barley malt and barley grain in Guinness Original, aka Guinness Extra Stout.
The brew debuted in 1821 and at the time contained live yeast that was rich in iron (also great for nursing moms). Today, you won't find the live yeast in a regular bottle of Guinness, but it's still chock-full of barley, not to mention it’s a tasty beer.
After that first postpartum Guinness, my partner and I decided we liked having an adult beverage to share while in the throes of new parenthood. Needless to say, I enjoyed my lacto-magical brew in extreme moderation—never more than one beer and not every day.
But always a stout. It became our thing, a shared treat to reward all of the hard work that goes into rearing and raising a factory-fresh human. Friends began gifting us their favorite low-ABV stouts (nursing moms should definitely avoid the booze-bomb varieties) when they visited the baby, and over time, we amassed a nice little collection of brews.
These are seven sensational milk stouts for new moms—or anyone else who appreciates good beer.
This dark and satisfying brew gets made with actual lactose, the ingredient that gives milk stouts the name and creates a slightly creamy quality to it. No, it doesn't actually taste like milk, but this Denver beer does take on a chocolate milk quality that makes it pleasing to drink. $5.50 for 16-oz. bottle, $11 for 6 12-oz. cans, $12 for growler
This 5 percent ABV beer by Samuel Smith contains hops, malted barley, brewer’s yeast and oats, all components thought to help with the production of milk in nursing mothers. Each batch gets fermented in stone Yorkshire squares in the oldest brewery in Tadcaster, England. The result is a refreshing and filling drink with a smooth and bittersweet finish. $5 for 12-oz. bottle, $12 for 4 12-oz. bottles
With roasted barley, flaked oats and flaked barley, this delightful stout not only contains galactagogue properties but it proves perfect for a new mom (and dad) looking to try an easy-to-drink stout. At just 6 percent ABV, this brew runs a little heavier than other stouts on this list, but that's easy to overlook once you try it. The addition of chocolate doesn't hurt either, and in some cases, that tidbit actually helps boost the mood-enhancing chemical oxytocin, which, coincidently, also helps with milk production. $4.50 for 22-oz. bottle, $10 for 6 12-oz. bottles
From the beer-mecca state of Colorado, this tasty oatmeal milk stout by Finkel & Garf offers a nice 5.5 percent ABV kick and pleasing malty and chocolatey notes. It’s best drunk straight from the can during nap time. $9 for 6 12-oz. cans
Oatmeal, chocolate and barley are the best combination of milk-producing goodies that one can find in a beer. This nutty, slightly sweet Wisconsin brew caps at 5.6 percent ABV. Try it for dessert, and give yourself a well-deserved treat. $7.50 for 6 12-oz. bottles
One nice thing about this Pennsylvania brewery's classic dry Irish stout is the low-ABV 3.7 percent, which means you can throw one back and feel guilt free. It also contains roasted barley and two types of malts to help give the brew a toasty, warming quality that makes one want to cuddle babies and snuggle up with a blanket or two. $4 for 10-oz. can, $6 for 16-oz. can (at select bars via nitrogen dispense system)
Last winter, Guinness jumped on the milk wagon and released a milk stout as part of The Brewers Project series. Using the same yeast base as a classic Guinness stout, this version gets elevated by the addition of milk sugars, bittering hops and roasted barley. It is smooth and creamy and has a toasty chocolate milk undertone. $22 for 18-bottle package from The Brewers Project that includes 6 Guinness milk stouts