As many of you know, my husband Troy and I had our first daughter 6 months ago in June. Through our research on raw milk and nutrition in general and our experience with the farm, we've become well versed on what makes a healthy diet—whole foods with minimal processing, eating as close to nature as possible—so when it came to feeding our daughter, it was a no brainer. Breast milk, period. Why would anyone feed a baby anything else?
While I was formula-fed as a baby, I was fully committed to breast-feeding for my daughter. What I didn't know is breast-feeding is HARD. Maybe not for all, but it did not come as naturally for me as I thought it would or should. It seemed to start out OK. Marin latched right away, the hospital lactation consultant said our form was fine, Marin was gaining weight (slowly). But as Marin's first month wore on (and anyone who has had a newborn knows that first month certainly can wear on you), she seemed increasingly irritable, insatiable, and, well, small. I again visited the lactation consultant and, sure enough, at 3 weeks she hadn't even regained her birth weight. After some investigation, it looked like my supply was the problem.
What followed was a flood of advice—from family, lactation specialists, support groups—and I tried everything: feeding half an hour out of every hour, pumping between feedings, herbal combinations of every sort, and LOTS of water. And I was able to double my supply. The only problem: I was still only producing about 2/3 of what Marin needed to thrive. She was just holding steady at her birth weight of 6 lbs.
My husband and I had to face the harsh fact that we needed to supplement with — ugh! — FORMULA. But what do you do when you know what we know about dairy?
- Commercial milk formulas come from conventional dairies with grain-fed cows bringing with that a host of issues. In addition, they are processed at extremely high temperatures rendering them shelf-stable while violently denaturing the fragile milk proteins, rendering them allergenic, and even carcinogenic, in the final product.
- Soy and “hypoallergenic” formulas are said to be even worse — not only are the proteins denatured by the obscenely high processing temperatures, but the large levels of phytic acid in the soy block mineral absorption by the infant. Moreover, plant estrogens in the soy disrupt the hormonal development of the baby. (See Weston A. Price's "More Government Promotion of Soy-Based Infant Formulas," February 2013)
- Donor breast milk through milk banks is pasteurized thereby destroying much of the nutritional benefit. Even the hospital sends you home with guidelines not to microwave or cook your breastmilk, and yet they think pasteurizing it does nothing?
- A wet nurse is another avenue but not practical or affordable unless you happen to know someone personally with an overabundant supply whom you can trust has a healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet.
- Straight raw milk is too hard for young human babies to digest and is missing or has an improper ratio of some key nutrients young human babies need. It is not recommended for children under a year (or ever if you are talking to the FDA — but that's another topic).
Left with these options, we chose to make our own formula. I knew other Pasture's Delights herd owners had put our raw milk to this use as a formula base. With a bit of research I found the internet full of others who too had come to this same conclusion. The Weston A. Price Foundation, in a controversial move, has created a homemade recipe that takes into account the differences between cow milk and human milk. Here is the link to the formula recipe we use: http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/recipes-for-homemade-baby-formula.
If raw milk formula is something you're needing to try, I probably have some tips I can offer: for example, we had to experiment with how to let the formula settle so as not to clog the bottle nipple. If you have questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to help if I can. Also, the HealthyHomeEconomist blog has this wonderful step-by-step video:
We still don't know why my milk supply never took off. Knowing what I know now about breast-feeding there are things I would have done differently early on. And I am certainly not an expert on mothering or child nutrition. Given my affiliation with Pasture's Delights, I'm likely bias toward WAPF's raw milk formula alternative, and I certainly don't recommend using your own formula if you don't have to — breast milk of any amount is still best. But I thought others might appreciate hearing my experience in case anyone else is grappling with supply issues. I'm certainly grateful that I had a raw milk source available to me when my daughter needed it, and it makes me more committed to our work with the farm to ensure that other families in our community also have a safe and reliable supply.
Pasture's Delights Herd Owner Carrie Fisher has been working with Pasture's Delights Raw Milk Dairy in a Marketing Director and Delivery Coordinator capacity since May 2012. Her daughter Marin has grown to 15+ lbs. on her breastmilk/formula diet, and is hitting or exceeding all her developmental milestones. Carrie continues to breastfeed Marin, supplemented with 6-8 oz. of additional raw milk formula daily. From Marin's doctor at her 6 month appointment: "however you're feeding her, she's doing great. Keep it up!"