Breastfeeding, in all its natural glory, isn't always something that happens easily. The choice to breastfeed is a dedication that some mothers have to work very hard for, and others are not able to breastfeed at all due to a medical condition, either with themselves or their baby.
When mothers are seeking alternatives to breastfeeding, they are often quite overwhelmed. I was inspired to write this article because of two mothers in particular who recently contacted me for advice. One mother was wondering how to best feed her newly adopted 4-day old baby. Another mother with Multiple Sclerosis had a sudden relapse and was put on heavy steroids. She’d been exclusively breastfeeding her 9-month old son since birth, but had to stop immediately during treatment. She doesn’t have a freezer stash of pumped milk, so what’s the next best option to a mother’s milk?
When breastfeeding is not an option, my first choice is donor milk. Human Milk 4 Human Babies is an amazing resource and their Community Page puts you in direct contact with donors in your area. Some hospitals also supply donor milk for those in need, although breast milk from a hospital often has to be pasteurized. Unpasteurized breast milk has live enzymes that help with the digestion of lactose and other proteins.
Homemade formula ensures the use of high quality ingredients. The nutrients in homemade formula come from real food sources unlike store bought which contain synthetic vitamins and minerals. Making your own formula also allows you to leave out some of the lower quality additions in store bought formula.
- 2 cups whole raw cow’s milk, preferably from pasture-fed cows *Note on milk below
- 1/4 cup homemade liquid whey (recipe) *Note on whey below
- 1 7/8 cups filtered water
- 4 tablespoons lactose
- 2 or more tablespoons good quality cream (preferably not ultrapasteurized)
- 2 teaspoons Frontier nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 teaspoons grass-fed gelatin
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cod liver oil
- 1 teaspoon expeller-expressed sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon high-vitamin butter oil (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon bifidobacterium infantis
- 1/4 teaspoon acerola powder
Put 2 cups filtered water into a glass-measuring pitcher and remove 2 tablespoons (that will give you 1 7/8 cups water). Pour about half of the water into a pan and place on medium heat. Add the gelatin and lactose to the pan and let dissolve, stirring occasionally. When the gelatin and lactose are dissolved, remove from heat and add the remaining water to cool the mixture. Stir in the coconut oil and optional high-vitamin butter oil and stir until melted. Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients into a blender. Add the water mixture and blend about three seconds. Place in glass bottles or a glass jar and refrigerate. Before giving to baby, warm bottles by placing in hot water or a bottle warmer. Never warm bottles in a microwave oven.
Note on milk: Weston A Price states, “The ideal milk for baby, if he cannot be breastfed, is clean, whole raw milk from old-fashioned cows, certified free of disease, that feed on green pasture.”
Raw milk is not available in Canada. In this case, “If the only choice available to you is commercial milk, choose whole milk, preferably organic and unhomogenized, and culture it with a piima or kefir culture.”
Note on whey: Use only homemade whey made from yoghurt, kefir or separated raw milk. Using powdered whey or whey from making cheese will cause the formula to curdle.
Supplies: It might be difficult to drive all over town to source supplies with a newborn in tow. Radiant Life has kits with all of the supplies needed for this recipe.
Video Tutorial: Weston A Price chapter leader, Sarah Pope, has also made a video tutorial for how to make this recipe.
I’ve written a guide for The Tot about Choosing Infant Formula.
Things to consider when store-bought might be necessary:
- what to look for in a pre-mixed formula,
- ingredients to consider avoiding,
- ready-to-feed vs powdered,
- the benefits of importing European formula,
- additional supplements to consider for a formula-fed baby.
Seeking Breastfeeding Support
Sadly, many mothers don’t receive the necessary support they need to establish a lasting breastfeeding relationship. Some incredible resources of support are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and La Leche League.
The hormonal physiology of birth is set up to support the hormonal physiology of breastfeeding, so a birth augmented with drugs often impacts breastfeeding and these mothers could greatly benefit from additional guidance.
Wanting to breastfeed but feeling unable to sufficiently nourish your child can be utterly devastating. I’ve also shared various ways of Naturally Increasing Breast Milk Supply, and why your supply might not be to blame if your newborn isn’t gaining weight.