One of the most controversial topics surrounding the issue of breastfeeding is what a woman should do if she finds herself unable to nurse her baby. An even more prickly subject is whether learning how to make homemade baby formula is a good idea.
I myself nursed all three of my children for an extended period of time. The first two were nursed for two years and the third for three and a half years. I practiced parent led weaning for the first 2 children as I did not want to be nursing and pregnant at the same time. For my third and youngest child, I simply allowed her to wean herself whenever she chose.
I’ve often considered what I would have done should I have found myself unable to nurse. Certainly commercial formulas are not a good option as these highly processed powders are loaded with rancid vegetable oils and denatured proteins. Even the organic baby formulas on the market should be avoided for this reason.
Is Homemade Formula Superior to Donor Breastmilk?
What about homemade baby formula made with milk, kefir, or yogurt from grassfed cows or free roaming, foraging goats? Would this formula be superior to human breastmilk from a donor milk bank?
To me, most folks’ opinion on this issue basically boils down to whether they feel that human breastmilk is suitable for an infant regardless of the diet of the Mother. I am of the persuasion that the breastfeeding Mother’s diet is critical to the nutrient density of her breastmilk. I wrote about this in an article commenting on the news story about a vegan Mother whose breastfed baby died.
Nutrient starved Mother = nutrient poor breastmilk
Science is backing this up. Published 2019 research found that the diversity of beneficial probiotics varies greatly from woman to woman perhaps due to dietary factors.
Color and Creamline of Breastmilk Varies Based on Diet
I know from personal experience how my diet affected the color and thickness of my breastmilk. With my first child, I ate everything organic but did not consume many traditional fats or sacred foods. My breastmilk was white with little cream on the top. My baby was also hungry all the time and wanted to nurse frequently. He also spit up a lot which I now know was my consumption of pasteurized organic dairy and improperly prepared grains during that time.
With my next 2 children, my breastmilk went from white to beige and had considerably more fat simply by adding lots of butter, cream, egg yolks, grassfed meat, and fish eggs to my diet. As an added bonus, my children were satisfied more quickly and stayed full much longer between feedings. They also never spit up unless I ate out at a restaurant or had consumed some low quality, non-Traditionally prepared food for whatever reason.
I sure wish I had frozen a few ounces of that breastmilk before and after my Real Food conversion. A picture would have been worth a thousand words!
Few Breastfeeding Women Follow a Real Food, Traditional Diet
Because the vast majority of women do not follow a Real Food, Traditional diet and because I so clearly observed the difference in my own breastmilk when I made the change myself, I would have chosen to make a homemade baby formula with raw milk from grassfed cows instead of seeking donor breastmilk.
To me, it would have been way too risky and far too likely that the donor breastmilk would have come from Moms drinking coffee or diet drinks, eating fast food, taking over the counter prescription drugs and the like. At least with grassfed cows, you know what they are eating and that they aren’t taking any drugs!
Holder Method of Pasteurization
Then there’s also the huge problem that many donor milk banks pasteurize the breastmilk!
And, no, the “Holder method of pasteurization” used by breastmilk banks is just as damaging as conventional pasteurization at dairy plants.
Yes, the Holder method is not as high (62.5ºC/144.5ºF) as flash pasteurization (71ºC/160ºF or higher), but all the enzymes and probiotics are still destroyed at 48ºC/118ºF, so don’t buy that line frequently spouted by donor bank advocates.
I give my opinion on this topic with one caveat.
If I could have found a few Moms that I knew who were eating a Real Food diet, I definitely would have accepted their breastmilk donations for my child if necessary.
But, from a donor milk bank, this information is 100% unknown. And, with Real Food Moms in the minority, using donor milk is just not worth the risk.
What about you? Would you have chosen homemade formula or a donor breastmilk bank? Why or why not?
What Temperature Destroys Food Enzymes?
I’d really appreciate if you had the time to comment a bit on the effects of drinking coffee when breastfeeding… Lactation consultants just advise to not drink more than 300 ml in one day, I find this response is very common with them but also with pediatricians. I haven’t found studies to contradict this but all are very small scale so I don’t find them very relevant.
To all those people out there that say that babies should never be given cow’s, let me tell you 2 stories.
The first story is a success story, the second is not.
THE SUCCESS STORY
My grandma raised 10 kids (baby boomers), none of which breastfed, they were all given cow’s milk. To this day, my dad brags that his family held the country record for most gallons consumed in a week (this was back in the day of the Milk Man) at 64 GALLONS A MILK in one week. As far as I know, all the children grew up healthy and strong, in fact in my 30 years on this earth I’ve never seen my dad get sick. Moral of the story, children CAN (I’m not saying should) be raised on cow’s milk (again this was the 1950s, so milk was different back then) and be relativity healthy and strong.
RAW COW’s MILK FAIL
My mother in the 80s breastfed my older brother. My mom was super in to health food (she was a pioneer in her day) and she even drank whole raw cows milk from a local dairy. Sadly, my brother threw up after every breastfeeding. My mom was beyond stressed and panicking because here she had this baby who was starving all the time and even though she did everything “right”, he was just throwing up everyday. The PROBLEM WENT AWAY COMPLETELY when she STOPPED DRINKING RAW COWS MILK. My brother could then breastfeed, keep his lunch down, and the rest is history.
Moral of the story, sometimes cows milk is a great option and alternative as it was for grandmother in the 50s, but in the case of my own mother, raw cows milk was the problem.
This should go without saying, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! It’s best to avoid making sweeping generalities is all I’m trying to say.
‘The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding’, bullet 18 states: “The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative —expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat —depends on individual circumstances.” The WHO recommends a wet nurse or donor milk over formula. A study was done that compared a mom from a third world country and a mom from a NY penthouse. Though diet was vastly different, nutritional facts of their breastmilk was almost identical. Also, my vegan friend has a baby who was crawling at 4 months and walking by 9months. Unless you have a science degree and have studied the breastmilk of women with different diets, I don’t think you should weigh in on that.