Eliza Larson and Kristy Kohler’s friendship is predicated on similar life patterns. The Arizona women both have a passion for baking, are mothers to two boys of the same age, and love dinner parties and creating rich, sustaining food for their families and friends. So, after the birth of Kohler’s second son just two months after Larson’s, the women stumbled upon the path that their friendship and intertwined lifestyles had prepared them for: “Eliza was running a food blog, and we were both breastfeeding our second sons,” Kohler explains. “I was struggling with my milk supply and my baby growing. She mentioned that she had seen lactation cookies on Pinterest, and we both had this lightbulb moment.”
Neither woman thought that the active ingredient in lactation cookies, a bitter brewer’s yeast, was suited for sugary cookies. “We thought we could make something better. So, our two families were at a cabin in Pinetop enjoying a weekend in the snow with the kids. We sat down together and thought, let’s do this. As soon as we get back home, let’s get into the kitchen and make a lactation food that tastes better, but with the same effectiveness for moms struggling with their milk supply,” Kohler says.
The goal? To create a product that could fuel maternal health, boost milk supply, and become a staple snack for busy moms, breastfeeding or otherwise. The partners experimented with ingredients and flavor combinations, baking hundreds and hundreds of batches before landing on their final product and launching their business, Oat Mama, in 2015: “The brewer’s yeast is rich and savory, which makes our bars really delicious and addictive. You can also add much more brewer’s yeast to granola bars than you can to cookies, because the cookies will just crumble,” says Kohler. In addition to the brewer’s yeast, a known galactagogue, their Apple Cinnamon bars include fenugreek, another ingredient thought to improve milk production. As such, customers flock to the product as gifts for postpartum moms, who need as many nutrients and vitamins as possible.
Kohler notes that although they’re designed to boost milk supply, the bars aren’t just for breastfeeding mamas: “We’ve had regular male customers, we’ve had moms who aren’t breastfeeding any more, or moms who never breastfed at all. The bars are rich, filling, and include naturally healthy fats from the nuts, seeds, and oils that are good for just about anyone.” Each bar is a nutritional powerhouse, including oats, ground flax, brewer’s yeast, toasted almonds, cashew butter, sunflower seeds, organic brown rice syrup, organic coconut oil, and a host of other berries, seeds, nuts, and natural sweeteners.
Though Oat Mama primarily sells bars via their website, they’ve expanded to regional and national retail stores in Colorado Springs, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. “Being part of the community in Arizona, though, is still incredibly important to us,” says Kohler. “We’re active in local philanthropies like Milk & Honey to support breastfeeding education, and we’re really involved in local breastfeeding events. Even though our granola bars are sold nationally, we’re still very committed to employing people, running our business, and being part of the food scene here in Tucson.”