When it comes to finding information on what to not take when pregnant, you will probably of found that almost everything is “not safe for pregnant woman”. The reason for this is that testing for safety of certain things during pregnancy is not something many would sign up to be a part of, and so we are warned to rather be safe than sorry as there is a lack of concrete research. The same goes for infant feeding – we are taught to trust in the body for breastmilk and, failing that, the commercial formula industry. Many parents would not take a risk of thinking outside of that formula can, but how many of you actually know what is in the formula that is supposed to nourish your infant in ever important development? The answers are shocking, and might leave you feeling trapped and without an alternative. So what do you do when your body does not comply with your breastfeeding plans but you do not want to trust big pharma to supply your babies nutrition? There are many parents out there who have done the hard work for you and here are some of the alternatives that parents around the world are using.
Please Note: This article is merely to share options other than commercial formula when breastfeeding is not an option that other parents have tried, as breastmilk is second to none for optimal infant nutrition and nothing can replicate that. If you are interested in any of these ideas, speak to your health care professional before attempting any of these methods, and do your own research to be confident that you are always making the best choices for your family.
Breast Is Best
We will say it again – breast is best when it comes to feeding your infant. But there are many incidences where it is not possible – tongue and lip ties making it difficult or even impossible for baby to latch, low or no milk supply, nipple confusion from introducing a bottle too early and many many more. New mothers who struggle do all they can to help their bodies in this process, by seeing lactation consultants, using things like nipple shields, taking supplements to increase milk supply and pumping their precious liquid gold at every chance to stimulate milk production. But what happens when your best efforts don’t work out as planned and you find yourself looking for other ways to feed your infant, even if it is just to supplement their diet while working on your milk supply? Past generations turned to wet nurses and breast milk donations, but today we have a convenient choice of formula. The problem with the multi-billion dollar formula industry is that most commercial formula brands contain questionable ingredients, additives and preservatives.
Donated Breast Milk
Breast milk is absolutely the best choice when it is possible. Good lactation consultants can help moms who are struggling with breast feeding to work through most problems. There are many times when moms find they have no choice but to supplement while working on upping their milk supply. With the global community coming together so beautifully, there are many mothers who donate their own expressed breastmilk to moms who find themselves in this difficult situation, or even cannot breast feed at all. South Africa has a few organisations working to bring these parents together and ensure that babies are given the best possible nutrition as nature intended. We have Milk Matters, the South African Breastmilk Reserve, and Human Milk 4 Human Babies which is actually a worldwide organisation with networks in most of the world, connecting mostly via social media. These pages provide a space where families in need can connect with women who have milk to share.
The Human Milk Banking Association of South Africa (HMBASA) is a non-profit organization that co-ordinates and provides guidance for human milk banking centres throughout South Africa. Here is their explanation of the donation process through their affiliates: “Healthy breastfeeding mothers in the community who wish to become donors contact the breast milk bank. Mothers then under-go a screening process, which involves a lifestyle questionnaire and blood tests for HIV/AIDS and Syphilis. Mothers are then given advice on expressing breast milk and they are given bottles to store breast milk. Bottles with expressed breast milk are labelled with the donor mother’s number and date of expression and are then frozen. Frozen breast milk is collected from the donor’s house and then pasteurised and frozen until needed. Milk banks use the Holder method of pasteurisation (62.5 °C for 30 minutes) which has been well researched and kills viruses and bacteria, yet retains all the nutrients and most of the immune properties.”
If donated breast milk is not for you or you cannot find adequate supply in your area, there is always formula. If you are worried about the commercial brands in the supermarket that often contain high amounts of corn syrup solids, hydrogenated oils, soybean oil and sugar you might be questioning the true safety of these, even if they are the norm and trusted.
The good news is that there are organic formula options like the trusted German Holle Organic brand, where they have taken care to use organic ingredients that are processed in ways that preserve their nutritional integrity. It supplies just the right amount of nutrients and protein, and the milk used is Demeter certified (which is a big biodynamic deal) and there are absolutely no nasty preservatives to be found on the ingredients list.
Home Made Formula
Another popular option is homemade formula. Yes, it is possible, and not as crazy as it sounds. Homemade formulas usually include a base of milk or broth with added real-food, nutrient-dense ingredients like gelatin, probiotics, beneficial high-vitamin oils/fats and acerola powder.
These real food ingredients ensure that all of their nutrients are more easily and effectively absorbed and utilized, and they each multi-task, not only providing the macro-nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol), but also providing vitamins, minerals, probiotics, etc in bio-available form.
The American Weston A. Price Foundation offers some dairy based and dairy free formulas recipes here.
Goat milk is often praised as being one of the closest to breastmilk. Although goat milk is rich in fat, it must be used with caution in infant feeding as it lacks folic acid and is low in vitamin B12, both of which are essential to the growth and development of the infant. Inclusion of nutritional yeast to provide folic acid is essential, as well as other additives to compensate for low levels of vitamin B12.
Dr Sears has this to say on goat milk for infant feeding:
“Parents of babies allergic to cow’s milk and other commercial formulas often ask if it’s safe to use goat’s milk as an alternative. In theory, goat’s milk is less allergenic and more easily digestible than cow’s milk, but it should not be used as a substitute for infant formula. Like cow’s milk, it can cause intestinal irritation and anaemia. If your baby under one year of age is allergic to cow’s milk-based formulas, try either a soy-based formula or a hypoallergenic formula. If your baby can’t tolerate either soy or hypoallergenic formulas, in consultation with your doctor and/or a paediatric nutritionist see this goat’s milk formula recipe.
This formula has stood the test of time. One batch contains 715 calories and nineteen calories per ounce, which is essentially the same as cow’s milk formulas. This is sufficient for an infant six to twelve months. A baby on goat’s milk formula should also receive a multi-vitamin with iron supplement prescribed by her doctor. In infants over one year of age, goat’s milk can be readily used instead of cow’s milk. (Be sure to buy goat’s milk that is certified free of antibiotics and bovine growth hormone (BGH).”
Human milk contains more whey, lactose, vitamin C, B12, folic acid, niacin, and certain essential fatty acids (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega 3s that are critical for brain development) than goat milk does, and goat milk is low in some essential nutrients like iron, folate, and vitamins B, C and D. It is essential to add vitamin and mineral supplements into you baby’s formula or diet of supplementing with goat milk. That is the reason why adding liquid baby vitamins to it, is essential.
Coconuts offer another non-dairy plant based ingredient that some parents have used in their own formula recipes. The reason coconut milk is a notable alternative is its high content of the fatty acid known as lauric acid, which is the predominant fatty acid found in mother’s milk. The lauric acid makes breast milk easily digestible, it strengthens the immune system and protects against viral, bacterial and fungal infections. But coconut milk does not have all the protein or calcium an infant needs, so other parents using this option add things like liquid calcium and other vitamin and mineral supplements to their formula. Coconut milk comes from the coconut and is not considered a dairy product, making it safe for children suffering from milk allergies and intolerances.
For more insight into what other parents are using with coconut milk for infant feeding, click here.
Hemp milk is legal, and full of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that meet a lot of the nutrient needs of infants. It is produced from the seeds of the hemp plant, and rather easy to prepare yourself with the use of a blender. This milk contains none of the THC found in marijuana, so rest assured! Hemp milk contains Omega-6s, 3s and 9s, and also contains magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc so it is a good source for minerals. Plain organic hemp milk contains no sugar, no cholesterol, and is free of soy and gluten. For many people, these factors make it an obvious choice for an abundant source of vital nutrients. The essential fatty acids, vitamins & nutrients that are contained in organic hemp milk provide a wide variety of health benefits, as well as the fact that it contains all essential amino acids that the human body needs to function and develop optimally.
We spoke to Peter Daniel of Soaring Free Superfoods and RAWlicious, a conscious eating and raw food advocate who gives talks on all sorts of nutrition topics, about hemp milk. His daughter was drinking hemp milk from around the age of 6 months, included in her starter foods, and he has such confidence in the nutrient value of hemp milk that had his partner not been able to breast feed they would of used hemp milk in their own home made formula for their child.
Unfortunately due to the lack of information available on this subject, there is little solid research to back this idea, but many have also used hemp in conjunction with coconut milk to create their infant formula.
Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Faithful to Nature does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional information shared by Faithful to Nature are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.