The most optimal nutrition for infants is their own mother’s fresh milk. This is the most natural and optimal option from a metabolic, immunologic, neurodevelopmental, relational, and psychological standpoint. It is God’s design for nutrition of a human infant, and despite man trying to recreate it, it stands far above anything else. Breast milk contains nucleotides, lactalbumin, oligosaccharides, prebiotics & probiotics, essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals in their most bio-available form, anti-inflammatory and immune factors, white blood cells, stem cells, several hundred different types of bacteria, and many things that have not yet been studied. All of these have been correlated with positive health and development of the baby and most are not found in formula.
Everything listed above
Can be difficult to establish latch and can be tiring for mother in first weeks; some babies have sensitivities to something mom is eating and there can be a trial-and-error phase of figuring that out.
Breastmilk Ratios are approximately 1:4:7 as Protein: Fat: Carbs
For many reasons, not all women are able to breastfeed, or aren’t able to produce enough and need supplementation. The second-best route would be finding a milk donor. This can be achieved a few different ways.
Milk banks are medically supervised organizations. These organizations primarily supply milk to NICU babies, but will also serve outpatient if supply is available. Potential donors for milk banks are screened with bloodwork and health verification by their medical providers. Donated milk through these organizations is pasteurized and screened for bacteria (not ideal in my opinion as much of the “bacteria” found in breast milk is beneficial).
Common pasteurization method and how it affects nutrients:
Macronutrients - No effect
Bile salt stimulating lipase - Complete loss
Immunoglobulin A – up to 50% loss
Lactoferrin - 60 to 80% loss
Lysozyme - up to 60% loss
Oligosaccharides - No effect
supplies breast milk to infants in hospitals who wouldn’t otherwise receive it
can be difficult to obtain for outpatient use, milk is pasteurized.
Milk Sharing Networks
The other option is an informal Milk Sharing Network. The most well known are Eats On Feets or Human Milk 4 Human Babies. There are questions you can ask a potential donor to see if they will be a good fit for your baby. Donor moms are absolutely incredible and most do not mind answering personal questions, as they understand the desire for you to protect your baby. Some questions we asked our donor included:
Do you smoke, drink, or engage in any drug use?
Do you have any health issues?
Are you on any prescription or over-the-counter medications?
Have you received any vaccinations recently?
What type of diet are you on?
What process do you take to collect and store your milk?
How much milk are you able to donate/will this be an ongoing relationship?
How can we reimburse you for your time and material?
(You should not pay for donor milk – most times the receiving family will
reimburse the mom with supplies like storage bags)
baby still receives most of the benefits of human milk, the relationship between a donor mom and recipient mom is special
can take awhile to find a good donor match, usually there is some traveling involved to pick up milk, freezing & re-heating the milk can lessen some of the nutrient-density, the diet/lifestyle of your donor is for the most part out of your control
Goats Milk/Cows Milk
We don’t recommend giving your infant pure raw goats/cow’s milk because it doesn’t have the correct ratios your infant needs. Goat Milk and Cow Milk vary, but the nutritional ratios are closer to 1:1:1 as Protein: Fat: Carbs (compared to 1:4:7 in breast milk). Therefore, there is too much protein and not enough carbs for Goat’s Milk and Cow’s Milk to be used as a 1:1 replacement for breast milk. However, adding some small amount of a high-quality raw goat’s milk (and to a lesser degree cow’s milk) to a quality organic formula can be beneficial if the infant tolerates it well. This is due to the overall microbiome promoting benefits of raw milk, something that is lacking in formula.
Live milk product, containing pre- and pro-biotic and immune factors making it easier to digest; contains cholesterol—essential for Vitamin D and hormone production in infants, which is associated with higher IQ and developmental scores. It is a good source of milk fat globule membrane, benefiting digestion, cognitive and immune development
Not nutritionally balanced & not an option for singular supplementation; can constipate and/or cause diarrhea due to excess protein & fiber; the ratios of Protein to Fat to Carbs is not the same as that of human milk and therefore would have to be mixed and reformulated to resemble that in breastmilk.
The commercial formula industry produces formulas that contain industrial (refined) oils with toxic residues, heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, & aluminum, and Monsanto’s GMO-derived ingredients (Soy Oil & Corn Syrup Solids). They are highly inflammatory and toxic to the brain and immune system. We do not recommend giving infants these formulas and would make tremendous sacrifices to not give these to our infants. At a time when we could not afford to buy organic food for ourselves, we made sacrifices to provide this for our children.
The fat, DHA, and ARA sources (if they even have them) are all from industrial oils that are not the same composition as those found in breast milk or even cold-pressed oils. These are highly inflammatory and toxic.
They also contain synthetic “vitamins” that are known to be toxic in excess and do not have most of the benefits of vitamins found in real foods. These can also be hard on the kidneys and liver & are not the same as real vitamins.
Holle & Other European Organic Formula Options
Formulated to mimic the Protein:Fat:Carb ratios seen in breastmilk. Contains some of the important compounds found in breast milk such as DHA and ARA. Does not contain a lot of the industrial oils, GMO products, synthetic “vitamins” from regular formulas like Enfamil, Similac, and others.
Can be difficult for infant to digest due to lack of enzymes, prebiotics, probiotic bacteria, immune factors & cells found in breast milk. Still contains synthetic vitamins that lack cofactors and phytonutrients that vitamins found in real food and breast milk contain. More expensive than commercial formula.
What we did When we had to Supplement
For the twins, we used exclusively donor milk for supplementation (along with direct breast feeding) until 6 months. After that, in order to stretch the donor milk we had, we began mixing donor milk with Holle formula and eventually, raw goats milk.
Why do we prefer raw goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk? Goat’s milk always contains A2 protein unlike some cow’s milk. It also contains the type of fat that is easier to digest and resembles human milk more than cow’s milk. We gradually transitioned them over to raw cow’s milk around 13 months because it is cheaper and more accessible.
Just like all formula is not created equal, the quality and source of your raw milk is very important. Get to know your farmer/source. We also supplemented with a high-quality cod-liver oil (@rositarealfoods) for the DHA and our own pastured egg yolk for the ARA, both of which are essential for infant development.
We do not personally advocate for making your own homemade formula because it can be difficult to get the ratios correct and it is difficult to identify what your infant may not be tolerating well. However, we personally would do this before buying commercial formula. Recently there have been plants shut down due to cases of infant fatalities and illness and ongoing investigations. Making your own formula is doable but can present some challenges, specifically balancing the key nutrients and identifying which ingredients the infant may not be tolerating well.
When it comes to our infants, the quality of the ingredients and nutrients along with avoiding toxins is important for development from a neurological and physical standpoint. We can hope that one day the commercial formula industry will begin creating product that benefits its consumer rather than their pockets, but until then, we can support those who do it right. It is unfortunate that in this country there are not higher standards to be met for our infants in their most crucial stage of development.
At the time of this post, Holle (along with many other European formula brands) are still available on several websites after conducting a simple Google search.
Formula is Not Breastmilk: https://ibconline.ca/formula-is-not-breastmilk/
Essential components of breastmilk: https://babyformulaexpert.com/baby-formula-extras/
Superior fats in breast milk versus formula: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071444/
Pasteurization effects: https://rmchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Comparison-Holder-vs-Retort.pdf
Human Milk 4 Human Babies: https://www.facebook.com/hm4hb/
Eats on Feets: https://eatsonfeets.org/safeMilkSharing
Goat Milk Composition: https://escientificpublishers.com/chemical-composition-of-goat-milk-revision-bibliografica-AVAS-01-0007
Abbott Plant FDA investigation: https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/16/fda- abott-reach-deal-infant-formula-plant-00032829
DHA & ARA: https://kabritausa.com/blogs/nourish-blog/behind-the-label-dha-and-ara
Why Holle is a good option: https://www.bottlesandburps.com/blogs/the-digest/why-some-parents-are-opting-for-holle-goat-milk-formula-over-cow-milk-formulas
Infants fed formula must synthesize their own cholesterol due to insufficient
cholesterol in formula.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316586/
Importance of milk fat globule membrane, found in breast milk and also goat's milk:
Goat milk better fat profile than cow's milk: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33202897/