I will never forget the first jar of goat milk. My farmer, in her long dress, hair in a topknot, gingerly walked to my car with the very first jar of the season. It was such an emotional moment, feeling as if I had given up, feeling as if I had failed and yet relief and gratitude for this caring farmer and fellow mom and the clean, wholesome milk she was providing.
Tears were running down my face, I was desperately trying to hold them back, but it was no use. This was milk for my son, my beautiful baby boy who was now 10 weeks and dreadfully tiny because I couldn’t provide enough milk for him.
I had spent countless hours trying to pump and build up my supply. I had tried every herbal galactagogue I could. I had seen a lactation consultant, spent time with the La Leche League, tried to rest more, reduce stress, ran blood tests, tried eating more than I could possibly bear. But, nothing. I was at an impasse.
The shame was immense. I was devastated.
For whatever reason, and I think there were many, I couldn’t provide enough milk for my ever-hungry little man. It was heartbreaking. I so badly wanted to be able to nurse and give him the best start possible. I just never even imagined another alternative. My Mom was also unable to nurse her youngest, but it never even registered that it would happen to me too.
My husband and I debated the options.
I wanted something real, clean, reliable and gentle on an infant. With the moves we had coming up, I was nervous about what we could do for him consistently. Neither of us were comfortable with relying on donor milk and the uncertainty it held. Who would we be getting it from? How often, how much? The organic store-bought formula left us with sleepless nights and major discomfort for him. With the highly processed, synthetic and de-natured quality of even the best off-the shelf formulas, I wasn’t comfortable with this as a long-term solution.
I knew of the Nourishing Traditions Homemade Baby Formula and began researching raw cow milk and raw goat milk. Ultimately, we decided to try a homemade goat milk formula.
Goat’s milk is known to be an easier form of milk to digest. For this simple reason I chose to give it to my son over cow milk.
According to this study, goat milk is less allergenic than cow milk particularly following a period of breastfeeding. Most cow milk contains the A1 protein, known to be inflammatory for many people and can be traced to conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s Disease, leaky gut and colitis. Goat milk contains the A2 protein which is said to be the closest in structure to human breast milk proteins.
Goat milk protein curds are softer and easier to pass through the digestive system, particularly for a still-developing infant system. The fats contain a higher amount of short- and medium-chain fatty acids compared to the long-chain fatty acids found in cow milk, making them easier to digest. This is why goat milk is considered to be naturally hydrogenated, you won’t see the cream rise to the top.
Goat milk provides great sources of the minerals calcium, potassium, copper and selenium. In fact, according to this study these minerals may even be more bioavailable when consumed from goat milk versus cow milk. (And the study goes on to say goat milk is a good treatment option for those struggling with malabsorption issues such as anemia and osteoporosis over cow milk.)
Goat milk is also an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and niacin. However it doesn’t provide as much B12 or folate as cow milk does. I made sure to keep supplementing myself in hopes he was still getting these nutrients through the milk he received from me. Then as he began eating food, one of his first foods was very small amounts of raw beef liver to get those needed B’s.
Goat Milk Formula
Below is the recipe (based on the Nourishing Traditions Baby Formula Recipe) I used to make my son’s formula:
- 2 cups raw goat milk
- 1 7/8 cups filtered water
1/4 cup liquid whey
4 Tbl Lactose
1/4 tsp Natren Bifidobacterium Infantis Powder
- 1/2 tsp unflavored, cod liver oil
1/4 tsp high vitamin butter oil (optional, but highly recommended)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (in a dark bottle)
2 tsp virgin coconut oil
- 2 tsp nutritional brewer’s yeast
2 tsp gelatin
1/4 tsp acerola powder
Radiant Life Catalog was a complete life-saver in this moment. They provide an entire kit for the raw milk baby formula. This made it really simple to get set up and took a load off my plate when I was already completely overwhelmed and freaked out, for lack of a better description. I am not an affiliate, just eternally grateful.
The First Bottle
I remember shaking like a leaf giving him the first bottle of goat milk formula. The chatter in my brain was intense! Was I making the right decision? Every mainstream platform would tell you a resounding NO. He sucked down that first bottle quicker than expected, maybe a little too quick. The first few weeks were definitely a transition period. But over time, we learned. With some trial and error, we fell into a new rhythm of nursing, burping, bottle-feeding and burping.
Little by little, he started to gain more weight, gain color and grow. He slept better, he became a much calmer and happier baby (duh, right? He had a full belly.) And, despite the revolving door of sickness in our house after our move, he didn’t get his first cold until he was 11 months. Even when he did get sick, it barely bothered him.
I continued to nurse whatever I could. My goal was to nurse until he was at least 18 months, and I made it. To the day. It wasn’t easy, but we did it.
He received the goat milk formula until he was 2 years old. The closer we got to the 2-year mark, the less I put into the formula. I did continue to dilute his goat milk until he was 2 and then slowly transitioned him to straight goat milk. To this day, he still prefers goat milk over cow milk.
I remember looking at him as a teeny-tiny little baby and I knew that one day he would be big, not just average, but big. At his 3-year well-visit the doctor looked at his growth chart and commented, “Well, looks like you caught him up.” He was at 97% for both height and weight.
Crap happens. Accepting that for myself was (and still is) incredibly hard. The story I told myself for so long was that I was doing it wrong and wasn’t enough. It really shook my confidence for years. But, now I can look back and recognize I moved heaven and earth to provide my son with a healthy, nourishing start to life. He got the best of both worlds and for that I am grateful.
The farmers I met on this journey who provided my son with his clean and nutrient-dense goat milk were kind, compassionate and anal. (which you want!) The amount of care and attention they gave to their goats and their concern for ensuring they were consistently providing a clean product was deeply appreciated. It gave me an entirely new view into small farms and the pride they carry for the work they do. We had to find 3 different farms in 3 different states (plus a couple of other farms while visiting family). Each farmer was so passionate about their goats and committed to their farm and milk. Each knew of the magnitude of feeding a baby and took it just as seriously as I did. But what struck me was that it wasn’t just one farmer with this mindset, it was all of them.
I have held this story incredibly close to my heart for five years. When I was in it, I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. I held tightly to the shame of what I couldn’t do, as opposed to shifting my focus to what I could. I desperately searched the internet for happy-ending stories of goat-milk babies.There were so many references to giving babies goat milk when breastfeeding wasn’t possible, but not many actual real-life stories. I found two. I felt so small and freakish for even considering it. But, I knew in my heart this was the best for him. And it was. Now here is one more happy-ending goat milk baby story.
Erlich, K., Genzlinger, K. (2012) Super Nutrition for Babies. Beverly, MA. Fair Winds Press
Fallon, S., Enig, M. (2001). Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing.
Fallon, S., Cowan, T. (2013). The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Childcare. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing.