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.


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 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.

Understanding Breastfeeding Aversion

Yesterday I came across this post about breastfeeding on the alivingfamily blog.  In it, the author describes her feelings of breastfeeding aversion while feeding her toddler, which surfaced while pregnant with her second baby.  As I read the way she described the feelings, I felt this massive surge of relief wash over me.  And then I turned to google and started researching breastfeeding aversion, which I had never heard of until now.

The reason I felt these feelings of relief and almost excitement, is because the feelings of aversion while breastfeeding that she describes in that post are exactly how I have always felt about breastfeeding, right from the beginning.  I have written on here once before about my love/hate (and to be honest, it was more of the latter than the former) relationship with breastfeeding.  At that point, I was in the middle of my breastfeeing experience and trying to come to terms with how I was feeling, trying to maintain a positive outlook on it, as I knew I had to continue until at least 6 months (we were moving interstate when bubba was 6 months old and I felt that breastfeeding would be a lot more convenient for the move!).

For this reason, I don’t think I was entirely truthful about my feelings, even in that raw and honest post.  After reading Sheila’s post on alivingfamily, I started googling like mad and hungrily reading up the limited information I found.  While there seems to be little official information, the web is filled with desperate and confused women describing all the feelings I had while breastfeeding.

“when my son wanted to feed I dreaded having to do it, felt almost repulsed the whole time, it made my skin crawl, I felt ‘wrong’ and it lasted during the whole feed, sometimes getting worse during the feed.” (source)

“Some people go as far to say that feeding feels like they are being ‘molested’. Another mother says ‘After the feed I’m angry at myself, but during the feed I’m just sitting there resenting **** and wanting to hit him’ whilst another responds ‘ it’s hard to admit that sometimes you really do want to hurt your baby. Except that, at the same time, you really don’t.'” (source)

“I felt an overpowering urge to stop nursing, immediately. It was a visceral, gut reaction like an itch, making me tense, anxious, cranky, and agitated.” (source)

“…it was so instinctive to recoil from nursing that I really almost couldn’t help myself. I had a strong urge to pick her up and throw her off of me and run away from her. I was in no way prepared for it and I felt like the worst mother on the planet” (source)

“For months I’ve been dealing with more than feeling touched-out, more than just being a bit antsy. I’ve had a genuine dread of breastfeeds, a feeling like breastfeeding is like being touched by a creepy uncle, that it’s wrong and it’s weird and it must stop now.” (source)

I wish I could accurately portray to you the feeling of relief I get reading these words coming from other people’s mouths.  It makes me feel validated, it makes me feel understood, it makes my whole breastfeeding experience finally, finally make some kind of strange awful sense.  Apparently this is more common in women who continue breastfeeding through pregnancy or are nursing an older child – but I certainly experienced this right from the very beginning of breastfeeding and surely there must be others out there like me.

I never even questioned, while I was pregnant, that I would breastfeed my baby.  It wasn’t a decision, it was an assumption.  I expected to enjoy it, for it to be the magical bonding experience so many women seem to love.

I wasn’t prepared for the pain in the beginning, but pain can be overcome.  What was worse was what came after the pain.  Other people’s words above have described it perfectly – the feeling of wrongness, of skin crawling antsy-ness, of wanting to fling your baby away from you and scream GET THE HELL OFF MY BREAST!!  My favourite is the last quote above – where she describes dreading breastfeeding and a feeling like you’re being touched up by a creepy uncle.  That’s exactly it.  Molested is a harsh word but there you go, I said it anyway – it feels like being violated, like doing something physically that every visceral piece of you doesn’t want to do.

As one of the mothers quoted above said, “I felt like the worst mother on the planet”.  All these other women seemed to love breastfeeding, to find it a special bonding experience, to do it past infancy, to not want to stop.  I have been looking back lately, wondering to myself – do those women just have a very different experience of breastfeeding than I did, or are they just better at coping with it?  Are they just better women – better mothers?

Having stumbled across this information about breastfeeding aversion, discovering that other women have felt what I felt about breastfeeding, makes me feel like yelling from the rooftops: I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER AFTER ALL!  It’s a genuine experience that some women have, it does not mean you don’t love your baby or that you don’t have the right maternal instincts or that you lack some kind of essential mothering ability.

Experiencing breastfeeding aversion does not make you a bad mother.

I just want to say it over and over again, for myself and for any other woman who has ever had this confusing, gut wrenching experience.
Hating breastfeeding does not make you a bad mother.

One of the hardest things about writing about this, is that describing feelings of wanting to fling your baby off you or hating having them at the breast may make it sound like you don’t care for your baby or you lack some attachment to them.  This is so far from the truth.  In fact, that’s what makes this experience so difficult, so confusing.  You love your baby, you want the absolute best for you baby – that’s why you put yourself through these feelings over and over again, multiple times a day.  I remember how much I couldn’t stand feeding and yet when she looked up at me with those eyes…

… oh god, she NEEDED me, she needed me and how could I fail her?  How could I have those feelings about doing something so beautiful for someone so incredibly beautiful?
Even now, looking at that photo makes me well up with tears.  She needed me so much – oh my little one, I did the best I could for you.

In the early days I contemplated weaning but found I still had an instinctive need to keep breastfeeding – and the feelings were at a manageable level.  But it got worse as time went on.  Once she got to about 5 months old, the long nighttime feeding sessions were like an incredibly unusual form of torture.

I held on to 6 months and as soon as we arrived in our new city, I began the switch to bottlefeeding, which thankfully went quickly and easily.  My boobs shrunk quickly and my bubba was happy on bottles.  I was happy with her on bottles.  Oh the relief.  Oh the immense relief to leave my breasts inside my bra all day and not have anyone suckle on them.  Oh the relief to hold my baby and feed her without my breasts being involved, to feel nothing but love.  Oh I can’t even describe to you the relief.

If I ever have another baby, I will spend the whole pregnancy freaking out about breastfeeding.  Because I really do believe in the importance of breastmilk in the early months.  But the thought of having to do it again makes me feel like putting on a steel bra with a lock and throwing away the key.  It makes me feel like crossing my arms tightly across my chest and curling into a corner.

I felt I needed to write this post because I feel like I want people to be aware of this issue, to know it exists, to understand.  I want the staunch breastfeeding activists to read this.  I want people who judge those who bottlefeed to read this.  I want anyone who has ever had or who is currently having this experience to read this.  I want them all to understand that this is a real phenomenon, and that it can be unbearable.

I want to tell them –

– I want to tell myself –

– hating breastfeeding does not make you a bad mother.

The Truth About Breastfeeding – My Breastfeeding Journey

During my pregnancy, I never doubted the fact that I was going to breastfeed.  It wasn’t even a question in my mind.  Breastfeeding is natural, normal and was the default option in my mind.  My mum breastfed all of us, my youngest sister in fact until she was 3 years old, and I had never even seen anyone bottle feed.  One of the first gifts my mother gave me when I was 8 weeks pregnant was “The Art of Breastfeeding” by the La Leche League.  It is a lovely book, full of wonderful information about breastfeeding, and it is what planted the seed of homebirth in my mind.  However, despite all the troubleshooting tips and discussion of the difficulties, I still got the overall impression that breastfeeding was going to be all amazing bonding with my child while angels danced around me singing hallelujah.
Haaaaaalelujah!! (image by Kate Hansen)
 Pretty much as soon as my baby was put on my chest, she started seeking out the breast, which was amazing to see, that pure natural instinct.  But my first surprise in my breastfeeding journey was that she didn’t know how to latch on – and I didn’t know how to help her.  She didn’t actually end up feeding until hours later as I was about to be discharged from the hospital – the midwife luckily asked me if we had fed yet and as we hadn’t, showed me how to do it.  My second surprise was that teaching her to latch involved holding her head and basically shoving it firmly onto my nipple.  The roughness of it was not what I expected.  For something so “natural”, it wasn’t that intuitive to begin with.
Bubba tries to find boobie
 Luckily my baby was a born breastfeeding pro (and not all are!) and we soon got the hang of it.  She had a strong sucking reflex and latched well right from the beginning (not all women are this lucky, some have a great deal of difficulty establishing correct latch).  However, despite her excellent latch, my virgin nipples were soon excruciatingly painful.  Every time she latched on was absolute agony for about a minute and I began to dread every feed – given she was feeding every 1-2 hours, that’s a lot of agony!!  By the end of the first week I had had enough and was honestly ready to give up breastfeeding if a wonderful friend hadn’t come to visit bearing breast shields.  Breast shields are little plastic teat-like things that you put over your nipple while your baby drinks and provides a bit of a barrier to give your nipples time to heal.  These were absolute sanity savers for me, made a huge difference and saved my ability to breastfeed.  After just a few days, I was able to get rid of the shields and breastfeeding never hurt again.
Breast shield – your nips will thank you!
 My next surprise, however, was how I felt about breastfeeding.  I had been concerned during pregnancy about how breastfeeding would feel, as my breasts have always been an integral part of my sexuality, and the thought of having a baby suck on them was a little hard to get my head around.  I kind of just assumed, though, that because it is so “natural”, that when the time came, it would be fine.  Turns out, making that shift is really not so easy.  I felt very uncomfortable with breastfeeding for quite a long time.  It did not feel like bonding.  I didn’t like it at all.  I didn’t sit there gazing at my baby full of love – I just felt weird and uncomfortable.  It was just a chore.
My first turning point came when I realised that maybe it was ok for it to just be a chore.  Maybe it didn’t have to be all love hearts and kumbaya – maybe it was just like changing nappies… I don’t love it but I do it because it has to be done to care for my baby.  It is cheaper and more convenient than formula feeding, and maybe that was reason enough.
It wasn’t quite enough though, as I continued to feel very uncomfortable with it.  There is a lot of stigma around bottle feeding these days, with breastfeeding pushed heavily, but at the end of the day, in no other part of life would a woman be stigmatised for saying “no” to a use of her sexual parts that she felt uncomfortable with.  I did a lot of research on the topic of breast versus formula feeding and a lot of soul searching, and decided to try a bottle of formula with her when she was about 3 weeks old.  Just to see how it went.  I knew that if it felt like immediate relief feeding her with a bottle instead of my breasts, then maybe formula feeding would be the right choice for me.  I truly believe that a happy mum equals a happy baby, and that if breastfeeding is impacting negatively on the mother’s mental/emotional health or on her ability to bond with her child, then breast in that case may not be “best”.  The most important thing is that a child is loved and fed by a happy mum.

My second and most important turning point in my breastfeeding journey came the day when I decided to try a bottle of formula.  That feeling of relief and having my body back was what I was expecting to feel.  What I actually did feel was completely unexpected.  Having never had a bottle before, I wasn’t sure how she would take it.  I followed a recommendation to use Nuk bottles (which are great by the way!), and she latched on after only two tries and immediately started gulping the milk hungrily!  Did I sigh in relief?  Did I think “oh thank god, this feels so much better”?  No – I felt a deep ache within me, pulled her off the bottle after only two gulps and put her on my boob.  I felt jealous of the bottle!  Everything in me was crying “no, you’re supposed to get that from me!”  *I* was her source of nourishment,  *I* was the one who induced those sleepy milk smiles, *my* milk was supposed to be what she wanted – that was something special for just her and me.  I had never enjoyed feeding her as much I did during that feed.

Which is not to say it was completely smooth sailing after that.  I still continued to struggle from time to time with the feeling of being uncomfortable using my boobs that way, of wanting my body back after 9 months of it belonging to someone else entirely.  I didn’t start zealously loving breastfeeding, the light didn’t start getting all rosy and hazy every time I fed.  But I just knew that there was this deep part of me that needed to do it.  I needed that connection with my child, I needed to nurture her in that way.  Even if I didn’t always like it, some instinct in me needed to do it.
Mum, boob is so EXCITING!
 I did learn an important lesson in open mindedness though.  I learnt that there are a huge variety of reasons why a woman may chose not to or not be able to breastfeed, and that all of them are acceptable, and no mother should ever be judged for her choice of how to feed her child.  All women have the right to choose how to use their body and what they are comfortable with.  Some women would dearly love to breastfeed but, for various reasons, are unable to.  Some women simply don’t want to, for reasons of their own, and that is also ok.  I learnt never to judge another’s choices until you have walked a mile in their shoes – or even half a mile, or even just tried their shoes on.
I did come across this very interesting article, The Case Against Breastfeeding.  It is not actually “against” breastfeeding as the title suggests, but rather investigates more closely all the superlative claims made by the pro breastfeeding movement, such as ideas that not breastfeeding will make your child sick, fat and stupid.  Turns out, the much touted benefits of breastfeeding may not be as huge as much of the health literature and many “lactivists” would have you think.  I find it interesting though, that right at the end of the article, the author admits that despite all she found in her research, she herself still breastfeeds.  There is certainly some kind of instinctive aspect to it that no amount of research can remove.
I also came across a wonderful site called Fearless Formula Feeder.  It is a great place of support for women who chose to or have to formula feed for whatever reason.  It think it is fabulous for these women to have a positive, supportive community such as this, as I think mothers who formula feed are subjected to far too much stigmatism in today’s society.  We are all just trying to do the best we can by our babies, and I wish we wouldn’t judge each other so much.  I also think it’s worth checking the site out even if you are a committed breastfeeder – some of the stories may just make you think twice before judging that mum in the parent’s room heating up a bottle for her baby.
 Even now, four months on, I wouldn’t say that I *love* breastfeeding.  But I don’t hate it or find it uncomfortable anymore either.  It has grown on me.  I gave myself 6 months as a goal – but now I think I will most likely breastfeed her beyond that.  In fact, I think I might even be sad when I decide to stop.  ‘Cos I gotta be honest, nothing quite beats the way they look at you with those breastfeeding eyes…
… ok, maybe a little part of me loves it.  Just a little bit.