Homemade Goat’s Milk Infant Formula

The Backstory

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.

My daughter and I still have our bottle cuddles :-)

My daughter and I still have our bottle cuddles 🙂

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.

The Recipe

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.

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My collection of ingredients

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.

The Ingredients

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.

My jars of goodness - kefir brewing and nettle infusing

My jars of goodness – kefir brewing and nettle infusing

Let’s go through each ingredient one by one:

Kefir

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.

Nature's Goodness kefir

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

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

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.

A bottle of homemade goat's milk formula

A bottle of homemade goat’s milk formula

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.

its not about breast versus bottle

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.

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Extending the Concept of Extended Feeding

As you know, I had a difficult breastfeeding experience, and decided to wean onto formula at 6 months old. Feeling equal parts guilt and relief, I decided if I couldn’t be the pinnacle of good parenting by breastfeeding as long as my baby wanted, then I would do the next best thing, and be the pinnacle of good parenting by removing the bottle as soon as possible. Once she reached one year old, I would just remove the bottle and start using sippy cups or the like.

Being an instinctive attachment-parenting-style mum who formula feeds can be a tricky road to follow. All the natural parenting pages and communities and articles tend to push breastfeeding heavily. I understand the need to promote and support breastfeeding. However, I am sad that this is sometimes done, not in a spirit of positive celebration, but rather in a way that denigrates and demeans women who (by choice or circumstance) nourish their babies with formula.

It leaves you with a pervading sense that the bottle is bad, mmmkay! And so I guess I just had this sense that I should get her off the bottle as soon as possible.

It’s a bottle. It’s not the devil.

I have always bottle fed the way I breastfed – with her tucked into my chest, the bottle at breast height. As she gets older, her bottle feeds are becoming few and short – just as I see happening with friends’ babies who breastfeed. A few short sips and then they want to dash off and find something shiny to play with again. The other day I was having a quick little feeding session with her, her head snuggled into my elbow, her eyes looking up at me as she drank, and I had a sudden epiphany.

I was suddenly brought to mind of a wonderful post I had read a while ago by the fabulous Fearless Formula Feeder, called The Case For Extended Bottle Feeding. In it she discusses the pressure to get children off the bottle but not the breast, and reading it was the first time I had considered that maybe it was ok to let your child continue bottle feeding (it’s an excellent article, I recommend a read if you’re interested in the idea).

Extended breastfeeding is promoted and revered in the natural parenting community not only for its nutritional benefits, but also for the emotional connection and attachment it embodies.  I have nothing but admiration and respect for women who breastfeed beyond infancy.  If I could have been one of them, I would have done it proudly.  I suddenly realised, as I cuddled and fed my baby – how was what I was doing in that moment any different emotionally than breastfeeding? Why should I cut this short as soon as possible, just because it was a bottle she was sucking on rather than my breast?

I have been giving Scarlett homemade formula since she was about 8 months old. It is full of wonderful nutritious goodies and I had already decided that I wasn’t going to wean her onto cow’s milk at one year old, as many people do, but rather that I would keep giving her my homemade formula, simply because I feel it is much more nutritious than straight cow’s milk, and she enjoys it, so why not?

So my realisation was this – if I were to practice extended breastfeeding, I would continue to nurse my child until she initiated weaning, both because of the nutritional value of breastmilk and the emotional value of breastfeeding. But here I am bottle feeding – and why should it be any different? Why shouldn’t I continue to bottle feed her until she initiates weaning – to give her the nutritional value of the homemade milk drink I give her and the emotional benefits of our cuddly feeding moments?

I think sometimes mums feel embarrassed if their child drinks from a bottle over a certain age. As if the child is being “babied” and should be being pushed into independence. And yet extended breastfeeding is celebrated. The idea of “pushing” your child into independence goes against everything attachment parenting stands for. If we advocate allowing a child to wean when THEY are ready, why not include ALL feeding in that?

Dr Sears (well-known attachment parenting advocate and paediatric doctor) maintains that “weaning a child before his time can leave a child feeling unfulfilled and his sense of trust violated.” On the Dr Sears website, he states:

“Life is a series of weanings for a child: weaning from your womb, your breast, your bed, and your home. The pace at which children go from oneness to separateness is different for every child, and this should be respected. In our experience, the most secure, independent, and happy children are those who have not been weaned before their time.”

Although he is referring to breastfeeding in these statements, I see no reason why they shouldn’t apply to bottle feeding as well. I’ve realised that just as I have fostered an attachment-parenting style of bottle feeding up until now, so also in this way can I continue. I can allow my child to wean naturally when she is ready, regardless of the fact that she gets her milk from a bottle. I highly doubt that she will still be running around with a bottle at 5 years old. My experience so far has been that if I give her what she needs, she will naturally grow past things when she is ready to (and probably much sooner than I would like! :-P).

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we love and nourish our children the best way we possibly can. And I would like to have those little eyes looking up at me for as long as she needs the feel of my chest on her cheek.

It’s hard taking a photo with my bottle hand 😛