I’m sure I will get a reaming for this from breastfeeding advocates, but I believe it’s worth pointing out that sometimes mamas simply need an alternative to just popping baby on the boob.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding and I don’t recommend that moms read this and STOP breastfeeding, BUT I am also a proponent of nursing mamas eating a nutrient-dense diet…and ideally this starts even before conception. At the very least, mama should commit to eating a nourishing diet while she nurses her baby.
Breast is best in nearly all cases, except for when a mother’s diet is so poor that she has very little nutritional value to pass along to her baby. It is common belief that a nursing baby will get what he/she needs by taking it from the mother’s body if it’s not provided via mama’s diet. At best, this will leave the mama extremely depleted, but at worst, neither she nor the baby will be nourished.
While diet does NOT greatly affect protein levels and immunoglobulins in breast milk, diet does affect lactose, fats, minerals and other key nutrients.
Poor nutrition is not the only instance where breast milk substitutes may be necessary. Some women just do not produce enough milk, despite their best efforts. The issue of what to feed baby also arises in the case of adoption or surrogacy.
Human women have always had a back up, whether it was a wet nurse or milk from another lactating mammal. In the past 100 years or so, commercial formulas have become the unfortunate stand in.
Conventional formula, even the organic varieties, are laden with denatured protein (powdered milk) and rancid vegetable oils which are simply not ideal foods for a growing baby.
Luckily there are several options between optimal breastfeeding and toxic commercial formula from which to choose.
Here’s the ranking from best to worse when it comes to feeding your infant:
Mom’s breast milk with mom eating a healthy diet rich in good quality animal fats during pregnancy and while nursing
Mom’s breast milk regardless of prior diet. (Supplement mom with fermented cod liver oil, high vitamin butter oil, and plenty of eggs, full fat milk products, liver, and seafood. Supplement baby with probiotics, and monitor baby for health issues like failure to thrive, colic, eczema, fussiness)
Direct donor milk (not pasteurized) from a donor known to have a nutrient-dense, non-vegan diet
– either raw cow’s milk based or bone broth based. Be sure to use these recipes, not ‘cheaper’ variations
Pasteurized Donor milk from a donor known to have a nutrient-dense, non-vegan diet (supplement baby with probiotics)
IN A PINCH
Pasteurized Donor milk from unspecified donor (Supplement with baby probiotics, and monitor baby for health issues like failure to thrive, colic, eczema, fussiness)
Organic cow milk formula supplemented with probiotics and fermented cod liver oil
Any formula without additional supplementation
This post was inspired by a great lecture by Sarah Pope of The Healthy Home Economist on Infant Care at the Wise Traditions Conference 2011. You can download her talk here. Sarah also has some great info and videos on preparing the Weston A. Price Formula on her site and at .
Are you and your baby among those for whom”breast is best” does not apply?
What’s been your experience with breast milk substitutes?