After struggling with milk production with all of her children, a friend suggested to Krissy Oliver that she should try some locally-made lactation cookies with baby number 4. Her experience was life-changing, with Krissy being able to express milk for the first time in 10 years. In 2019, she took over the business, Totally Devoted, that holds such a special place in her heart, and she set out to help other mothers who are struggling to breastfeed.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Jesse, our founder, set up this business when in the early days of breastfeeding her kids. She spent a lot of time with friends with babies and they spent a lot of time talking about feeding and whether they had enough milk.
We all tried the teas you can buy but they taste like grass! A lot of websites put up recipes for lactation cookies, but as mums with newborns, you really don’t have enough time to bake.
Her daughter started to get really bad eczema all over her face. It broke her heart, seeing her scratch until it bled. Jesse is a super-smart woman that has studied nutrition, so she did her own research. She discovered how much diet affected the skin, so she decided to give up dairy and wheat and, slowly, her daughter’s skin got better. It was hard as there really wasn’t a lot of snack food on the market that was dairy or wheat-free, and hardly any that was yummy.
After another coffee group, the conversation of lactation cookies came up again. And so, the lactation cookie began! She created something that she could enjoy guilt-free while benefiting her baby at the same time, with the added bonus of being able to eat it with one hand!
The cookies took a long time to get right. Making a dairy and wheat-free cookie that didn’t taste like dust was a huge challenge. She adopted the phrase “food as medicine” and had this in mind when carefully choosing the ingredients. When she felt she had created something yummy, she always taste-tested it on the kids because they never lie! The cookies were a hit with the kids and she sold so many through farmers markets and coffee groups, she had to source a manufacturer and take her product to the world.
Nearly eight years later and the rest is history.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I am Krissy Oliver and I am a mother of 4 beautiful little kids. Charlie (10) is my oldest girl, then Van (6) is my oldest son, my youngest girl is Mia (3), and my youngest son is Don (7m). I breastfed all of them but unlike some mums that had surplus milk, I have always struggled. I drank water, I had a great diet, I exercised, but still I struggled with my milk production, I never had enough, and it always stressed me out.
I felt like I was a useless mum, not being able to feed my baby, and then I would dread Plunket visits because they would weigh my baby and tell me that they weren’t gaining as much as they should. I just didn’t know what to do.
With my youngest son Don, a friend of mine suggested that I try these lactation cookies that a local woman made. So I went looking for a box and tried them. I cried – I was able to express milk for the first time in 10 years! Not only was I able to express milk, but Don gained nearly 2kg in 4 weeks. That’s it, I was hooked. To me, this was the magic product and if I knew about it ten years ago when I had my first, I think it would have changed my whole motherhood journey.
Jesse sold Totally Devoted to me in October and I have promised her I am going to take this product to every mother that has ever struggled with breastfeeding, because this changed my life and I know it will change theirs.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The innovation is the recipe. Jesse has formulated a recipe, made solely and entirely with love. From one struggling mother to another struggling mother. It tastes incredible and is so good for you and your children. The herbs in them are absolute magic. I love that she has spent so much time getting every single detail right. And that’s because she didn’t set out to make a cookie that just ‘tasted great’. Anyone can put sugar and oats and a bit of brewer’s yeast in cookies and call them lactation cookies. An actual lactation cookie needs to look after both of you: mum and baby – not just taste yummy. Jesse really struck gold when she made a cookie that tasted great and is beautifully healthy. She has gone the extra mile to make sure that these cookies love your kids just like you do.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
If we are completely honest, I’m nowhere near achieving anything close to a healthy work-life balance. At the moment my car looks like my children actually live part-time in the back seat, I am forever calling the school to find out information about events and trips because I’ve lost more permission slips than I will ever admit, most of my emails start with ‘sorry for the delayed response’ and I’m pretty sure my blood type is C (caffeinated). The reality is, I’m raising four kids under ten years old and not only supporting my husband with his businesses, but I am also working on mine full time. All of us mums (both out in the workforce and SAHM) know there actually aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything we want done. Ever.
So balance? I’m not quite sure I have that. But I do have a little rhythm and rhyme to my madness.