I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my twins, I really did.
And I thought I could. While I was pregnant, I read books and articles all emphasizing the fact that the more milk you express, the more milk you will make, so there is no reason a mom shouldn't be able to feed twins or even triplets exclusively on breast milk. For whatever reason, however, my boobies didn't quite understand this theory. My babies were feeding constantly, but never seemed to get full. And worse, they were barely gaining any weight. I was starting to get very worried about my Baby Girl and Little Man.
My pediatrician at the time was absolutely no help. I was told that I needed to offer them the breast more frequently, though I'm not sure how that was possible since I was already constantly feeding them--seriously, I couldn't even go to the bathroom without them screaming because my boob wasn't in their mouth. I was also told that they weren't latching on correctly.
The nurse at my appointments, who is a lactation consultant, rattled off a bunch of stuff about Little Man's lip not being out enough, a crease that wasn't supposed to be there in the corner of his mouth, his cheeks not being puffed out, his jaw not moving correctly, etc, etc, etc. I was doing a whole lot wrong according to this nurse, yet she never told me what to do to make it right!
And the kicker came when my doctor sent me home with a bunch of cans of Enfamil and told me I was to feed them two ounces of formula after every feeding.
I was so bummed out.
Why don't I want to feed my babies commercial baby formula?
The first ingredient in most any commercial baby formula is nonfat powdered milk. Powdered milk is manufactured by spraying it through tiny holes at high temperatures. This process causes the cholesterol (an essential nutrient for all humans, but babies in particular) in the milk to become oxidized.
Why is oxidized cholesterol bad? Oxidized fats of any kind are particularly damaging to the human body. Putting this rancid form of cholesterol into your baby's body raises the risk of inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease. Perhaps more importantly though, since cholesterol is necessary for brain development, oxidized cholesterol can result in impaired brain function.
In addition to the oxidized cholesterol, commercial formulas contain soybean oil. Not only is over 90 percent of soy genetically modified, but soy in general (unless properly fermented) is unfit for human consumption--I don't care how good for you they say tofu is, it's just not. There are a whole host of health issues that arise from eating soy. In fact, going through all the health problems related to soy is a whole blog post in itself! Soy is linked to many cancers, fertility issues, blocked nutrient absorption, and food allergies.
And finally, a major concern I have with commercial formulas are the vitamins and minerals added. For the most part, they are all synthetic versions of the vitamins and minerals that your baby needs for proper growth. Synthetic versions of these nutrients are not absorbed well by the human body, so your baby will likely not be getting the nutrition needed during the crucial first year of development.
With this in mind, I knew I had to do something different. I had to find another option, because I just couldn't bring myself to feed this to my children. That's when I decided on homemade formula.
Homemade formula? Really?
I have been a long-time reader and fan of Nourishing Traditions, an excellent book on nutrition that goes against today's "politically correct" nutrition advice. I remembered that I had read a recipe for homemade formula in this book back when I first got it. I also knew that the same author of that book was planning on releasing a new book, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care, so I went straight to Amazon and pre-ordered a copy, and this book is where the recipe I use comes from.
There are three different recipes for homemade baby formula in this book. One is based on raw cow's milk, one is based on raw goat's milk, and the third is a meat-based formula that uses chicken or beef stock and finely ground liver. Since I cannot legally purchase raw milk in the state of Wisconsin, I was left with the meat-based formula.
I won't go into the how-to on this formula since there are others who have already covered this wonderfully. But I will briefly just say that if you compare ingredients on a can of commercial formula to the ingredients in this homemade recipe, you will find that they are very similar, minus the processed ingredients, synthetic vitamins, and soy. In the case of the meat-based formula, rather than a milk-base, it relies on meat stock. You must make the meat stock yourself (no store-bought!) using bones from pastured animals, such as cows or chickens. This formula is a time commitment! Which leads me to the next section of this post:
What are some obstacles to making your own formula?
Time! It is admittedly much faster to open a can of powder, scoop it into a bottle of water, and shake. When putting together this particular homemade formula, you start by making the meat stock. This is an all-day process. Bones are simmered for an extended period to pull as many nutrients out of them as possible. The result of this all day simmering is a nutrient rich stock with a high gelatin content (which is good for baby's digestive system).
Once your stock is made, the rest doesn't take very long to put together--maybe a half hour. Then you can pour it into containers and refrigerate. I use mason jars to hold my formula, and generally avoid using plastic if at all possible. When it's time to give Little Man and Baby Girl a bite to eat, I just pour a couple ounces into each bottle, and then set the bottles in a dish of hot water to warm the formula up.
In addition to time, I would say the other major obstacle I have faced is...other people.
The idea of someone making their own infant formula is strange to many people. In fact, some may get downright angry with you and accuse you of harming your child. Fortunately, this has not been the case for me, but believe me, I have had some eye brows raised and hurtful comments made.
For example, just the other day, I dropped all my children off over at my mother's house for a couple hours. Baby Girl was quite fussy that day for some reason, and my mom had some trouble getting her to settle down and eat. My son told me today that grandma said it was probably because of "that meat crap" that I'm feeding her.
Yeah, hearing stuff like that hurts a little, but I will not let other people push me into doing something that I feel is wrong. It is emotionally hard though, thus an obstacle that you will likely face if you are making homemade formula. Some people will disagree with your decision to make your own formula, and those people could very well be someone close to you. You can calmly explain where you're coming from and why you've made the decision to make your own formula, but chances are, you will not change their minds. My advice would be to just let it go. These are your children, so do what you know is best for them, and when confronted by others, firmly (but friendly) stand your ground.
I have to say though, other than these issues, making my own formula has gotten to be just another part of my life, and one that I am happy to do. As I have gone along, I've figured out what works best for me to make the process go a little faster.
My tips for making homemade meat-based formula:
- I like to make a week's worth of formula at a time. You can't really do this if you're using the milk-based formulas, but it works with the meat-based because it stays fresh longer. I make a big pot of stock, and usually end up with around 6 or 7 quarts of formula--enough to last me a week (I feed the twins around 10-12 ounces a day of formula each. The rest is breast milk.) Just make sure you've got room in the refrigerator if you make a big batch because 7 quart jars can take up a lot of space.
- Keep extra ingredients on hand at all times! You don't want to run out of liver or something just when you need to make a batch. Keep a backup of each ingredient on hand so that you never run out.
- The formula can congeal upon refrigeration. This is normal, and actually a good thing. If you are using good quality bones and simmering all day, the amount of gelatin in your stock will be astronomical compared to any store-bought can of broth you have ever purchased. Gelatin is very beneficial for your baby's digestive system, and there is even a study that found babies fed milk with added gelatin were less likely to develop allergies.
- A fat layer may form on the top after being chilled. To avoid this, I chill my broth well before making the formula, and remove the hard layer of fat that forms on top (save the fat for your own cooking). If you are still getting a layer of fat on top, break it up and mix it back into the formula. It will liquefy once you warm the bottle.
- Strain the formula through cheese cloth before you jar it up. This will remove any large pieces of liver that were not liquefied enough and keeps the nipple from getting clogged.
Overall, I have found that making this formula has fit into our lives with no major issues. What matters to me most is that my children are healthy and growing. And growing they are! While their weight gain was once stagnant, it has now taken off. At one of their last weigh-ins, they had each put on almost a pound in one week! But, they had a lot of catching up to do, so we were glad to see this. Little Man and Baby Girl are flourishing on their diet of breast milk and formula, not only in size, but in mental development as well. They are bright-eyed and curious babies, full of smiles.
I would recommend this homemade formula to anyone over a commercial brand, and hope that more parents give this consideration when breast-feeding is not possible.
If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them! Please let me know in the comments section below.
January 9, 2013 - Little Man and Baby Girl are born.
Little Man: 5 lb. 11 oz.
Baby Girl: 6 lb. 2 oz.
March 7, 2013 - 2 month Well Baby Check
Little Man: 7 lb.
Baby Girl: 7 lb.
This is around the point we started to supplement. They're still pretty scrawny:
Once I began to supplement with the meat based formula, they really started to put some weight on.
May 2, 2013 - 4 month Well Baby Check
Little Man: 10 lb. 10 oz.
Baby Girl: 10 lb. 6 oz.
They are both meeting all developmental milestones, and are cute, happy babies.
July 24, 2013 - 6 Month Well Baby Check
Little Man: 14 lb.7 oz.
Baby Girl: 14 lb. 13 oz.
The babies are growing so fast! And still meeting all developmental milestones.
I am still breastfeeding while supplementing with homemade formula, but they have also started on solids now. So far, they've tried egg yolk, bananas, avocados, carrots, beef, and squash. I make our own baby food too. I just puree the food, freeze it in ice cube trays for nice portions, and then reheat to serve.
|"Where's dinner Mom?" asks Baby Girl.|
The twins are growing so quickly! Their personalities are really starting to come out now as they get older...
|Mom, I'm going to mash some 'taters!|
|Little Man wants to make some soup for his ladle.|
|It's way too hot out for clothes!|
I am enjoying watching them grow and learn new skills, yet nervous at the same time. You see, the newest development is learning to crawl! Once they start getting around more, we're really going to have our hands full!
Go Little Man!
*** I apologize for the Similac and other formula ads in my sidebar and below my posts. I am working on getting them off! ***