I have written on this blog before about my difficult breastfeeding journey. I truly believe in the value of breastfeeding and did it as long as I could, but there came a point where I could not longer take it, where I felt that breastfeeding was actually interfering with my ability to bond with my baby, not aiding it. At that point, when my daughter was 6 months old, I decided to wean to bottle feeding.
She took to it easily and quickly but I was still left feeling not quite right about feeding her commercial formula. I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore but I didn’t like giving her this powder from a tin with no real concept of what was in it or how it was made. Because I had given up breastfeeding by choice, not due to lack of milk, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that what I replaced it with was the best thing I could possibly find.
I looked up homemade formula recipes on the internet but they all seemed incredibly complicated with ingredients I didn’t know how to source and method descriptions as long as my arm. I continued on commercial formula for about two months. My daughter struggled with constipation terribly during this time. I switched to an organic formula but this difficulty continued.
One day, when she was 8 months old, she was straining and screaming trying to pass a bowel motion, and she looked up at me and just reached out a hand towards me in this gesture of desperation, of despair. She seemed to be saying “help me mummy, make this pain stop.” In that moment, I knew I had to do something. Something had to change, I couldn’t keep seeing her in this pain. I was also afraid it would make doing a poo a scary thing for her, which could cause difficulties down the track.
Luckily, right around this time, I had stumbled across a goat’s milk formula recipe that The Eco Mum posted in a Facebook status update one night. It seemed so EASY compared to all the other recipes I had come across. In fact, the recipe she outlined in her status update had only three ingredients – goat’s milk kefir, coconut water and stinging nettle infusion.
I started researching, sourcing ingredients, and tweaking, and the result was this recipe. I remember the first time I gave it to my daughter and how happy I felt that I knew every single ingredient that was going down her throat and that I was super happy for every single one of them to be going into her little tummy. She took to it straight away without an issue (WARNING: don’t be curious and taste it yourself. Seriously don’t. Ick. Didn’t seem to bother her though!). Within a day or two, her poos were like breastmilk poos! Apart from the odd occasion during the transition to solids, she has never again had a problem with constipation. No more straining, no more pain!
She had this full recipe from 8 months old to about 13 months. Around 13 months, I started making an even easier, more convenient version with just straight goat’s milk, coconut water and a powdered probiotic, as a complement to her solids diet. Sometimes now if I run out of coconut water, I’ll give her straight goat’s milk, but I really notice the difference in her gut health when I use the coconut water, it is really great stuff!
She is now a happy, healthy 20 month old, bang on average for height and weight, very clever and active. She has only been sick about 2-3 times in her entire life.
Please note that I am not a health care or nutrition professional. All I can tell you is that this formula has done wonders for my daughter and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again in the future, should the need arise.
This recipe is really very easy, so please don’t be put off if you find some of the ingredients daunting or foreign at first glance. Below the actual recipe, I will outline each ingredient in detail and where to source it.
To make one litre of formula, I use the following:
300 ml goat’s milk kefir
300 ml organic coconut water
300 ml organic nettle infusion
1 tsp black strap molasses dissolved in 100 ml clean (filtered/distilled) water
1/4 tsp fish oil
1/4 scoop vitamin C powder
All you need to do is mix all of these ingredients together and store in the fridge.
Scarlett has always been happy to drink this straight from the fridge, but you may wish to warm it in a bottle warmer or by placing a bottle of formula in a bowl of hot water.
At first glance, you may be thinking: kefir? molasses? infusion? What the heck?! And where and how?!
Don’t worry – once you pull all the ingredients together and make it a couple of times, it’s really very easy and you will get into your own little routine. I was able to make up a litre batch within a mere minute or two at the height of our usage of it.
Let’s go through each ingredient one by one:
Kefir is a kind of liquid super yoghurt, tons of great natural probiotics, fantastic for the gut and digestion.
You can make kefir from live grains – a bit of googling and you should be able to source some grains in your area (please feel free to message me or comment if you are unable to find some). All you do is put the kefir grains into 1-2 cups of lightly warmed milk in a large jar, cover with a plastic or glass lid, and leave in a warm (20-25 degrees Celsius) place for 24 hours. Then just strain out the grains, put the grains back into the jar, add a touch of the kefir you have just harvested, and then add 1-2 more cups of milk and start over again! You can keep the harvested kefir in the fridge. The important thing to remember is that these grains are alive, so you have to keep them in milk and at a warmish temperature to keep them alive. I just kept the jar of grains and milk in my pantry with a towel wrapped around it. Some people muck around with thermometers and things but seriously, I can’t be pfaffed with that kind of carry on. The grains should grow and multiply, the longer you keep making kefir.
If you can’t find live grains or don’t want to have to deal with live grains, you can buy sachets of dried kefir at good health stores or online, for example at Four Body. You just empty the sachet into a litre of warm milk, leave for 24 hours, then add a little of the kefir to some new milk. This can be repeated for a total of 5 litres of kefir, then you just open a new sachet.
Kefir is really great stuff and fantastic for gut health (and therefore immunity and general wellbeing), so I urge you to at least have a go making some. If it all just seems way too hard or outside your comfort zone, I would recommend using straight goat’s milk with an added powder probiotic such as Inner Health Plus for Kids.
If you’re feeling eager, you can read alllll about kefir on this kefir information website.
Goat’s milk is closer to human breastmilk in composition than cow’s milk is, and many people find it less irritating to the gut and easier to digest. Many supermarkets stock UHT goat’s milk in the long life milk aisle, or you can buy powdered goat’s milk at good health food stores or online (I got mine for a while from Four Body). While I was making my own kefir, I used the powder, as I found the grains thrived better in it. Now that my daughter is older and I give her straight goat’s milk, I just use UHT milk.
Coconut water contains higher concentrations of lauric acid than animal milk – lauric acid is a component of breast milk that helps with immunity (it is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic). In this respect, coconut water is actually closer to breast milk than cows or goats milk. It’s also good for the gut and a fantastic hydrator. It’s important to get 100% pure coconut water, as sometimes you’ll see coconut water drinks in the supermarket with added sugar and flavours and gunk. I sourced organic pure coconut water in bulk from Chemist Direct.
Stinging Nettle Infusion
The nettle infusion is made by soaking organic stinging nettle leaves in water for 24 hours, then straining out the leaves, which makes a concentrated liquid full of all the good stuff in the leaves (vitamins, minerals etc). You can find loose organic leaves at Southern Skies Soap Supplies. You can also find nettle tea in some supermarkets – just make sure it is pure nettle leaves with no other additives. I use 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons, or four tea bags, per 1 litre of boiling water. Put it all in a jar and leave for 24 hours. Strain out the leaves and you are left with a green, richly grassy liquid full of goodness.
Black Strap Molasses
Black strap molasses is a completely natural by-product of sugar production, comes from sugar cane, and is really high in iron (1 tablespoon has a large percentage of an adult’s daily iron requirement), but funnily enough also has a slight laxative effect, so it helps prevent constipation. If you’re finding the poos a bit icky, you can cut back on the amount of molasses you use. You can find black strap molasses at a good health food store or you can source it online at Four Body (and also read more about its benefits).
Fish Oil and Vitamin C
The fish oil I add for brain development, and you can find it in any supermarket or pharmacy. Some people may wish to use Flaxseed oil as a non-animal source, however the omegas in fish oil are much more bioavailable (more easily digested) than in flaxseed oil. The vitamin C powder you can get at health food stores and I added this for boosted immunity.
So there it is – the homemade formula recipe that has served me and my daughter so well 🙂 It does take a wee bit more effort than opening a tin of commercial formula, but I really think it is worth it. I really hope that this can help some mums out there who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed, but who feel that they want to ensure the absolute best nutrition possible for their babies. Please don’t take any of this as a judgement upon those who do choose commercial formula. At the end of the day, in my opinion, the most important thing is that you feed your baby with love, regardless of whether they are latched on to your breast or a bottle. Hold them in your arms, look into their eyes, let them feel your heart beating on their cheek. In the words of Jewel, “in the end, only kindness matters.” Love your baby, be kind to yourself, go in peace xxx.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way supported, endorsed by or sponsored by the links I provide in this article. I am merely sharing what worked for me. If you know of other sources of any of the ingredients I discuss, I’d love to hear from you.