Baaa-a-a-a Parenting: Goat Milk Instead of Breast Milk for Babies
When I became pregnant last year I was determined to do everything “the right” way. I was going to eat right, exercise, have a natural birth, and breastfeed for the first year.
Instead, I gained 60 pounds without even trying, had a C-section, and my milk dried up after six weeks of breastfeeding.
When our baby boy, Quen, started to look pretty skinny we were never more grateful for formula. And while I pumped away trying to get my milk supply back up I could rest easy knowing he was getting what he needed.
But. Something about mixing powder with water and calling it good didn’t sit right with me. Especially after it was clear my milk wasn’t coming back. There had to be something out there for my baby that was, well, fresher.
My son’s nanny goat.
I researched the heck out of making homemade formula from goat’s milk, and in the end, I discovered that it is nutritionally nearly identical to human breast milk and very easy for babies to digest.
There are a number of recipes out there, ranging from complicated to simple. I knew I needed something simple, something that wouldn’t become a chore to do every day (making homemade whey everyday, for example) and something with ingredients that are readily available in Costa Rica (acerola powder is out). I settled on a recipe developed by nutritionist Joe Stout from Mt. Capra Wellness. He created this formula for his own infant daughter and she thrived on it.
I took the recipe to my son’s doctor to get his opinion. He encouraged me to try it and told me what signs to look for that might indicate Quen was allergic or unable to digest the goat milk. Then I loaded up on the ingredients and found Lola.
Though we plan to get our own goat eventually, right now I’m running over to the neighbor’s house every morning for fresh goat milk. When we show up at her house each morning Etilma, re-sterilizes the bottle and mason jar that I bring over. She sterilizes the milk bucket and the strainer, her hands and Lola's teets, all with hot water. Then the milking begins. It only takes about two minutes before Quen is greedily sucking down the fresh sweet milk while Lola greedily inhales her corn feed.
I take home a quart mason jar of the milk every day, and because goat milk has to be diluted (it’s higher protein content is hard on infant kidneys), the quart lasts almost all day—especially now that Quen is also eating solid foods. When the goat milk runs out, Quen drinks standard formula until the next morning. And because goat milk is very delicate, when we are out and about we also take the standard formula with us to make bottles on the go.
However, goat milk is not a perfect substitute for breast milk, especially after it has been diluted, and I have to amend it with a few ingredients: Coconut oil, olive oil, sugar, molasses, infant probiotics and infant liquid vitamins.
The coconut and olive oils are for fats, the coconut oil also provides lauric acid, which is found in breast milk, the sugar (or maple syrup) is used for quick carbohydrates—important for brain development, the molasses is for iron, the probiotics help develop healthy bacteria in Quen’s stomach, and the liquid vitamins are self-explanatory.
If you’re interested in giving your infant fresh goat milk formula, check out Mt. Capra’s recipe at Mtcapra.com, do your own independent research and talk to your doctor. It’s important that the milk is fresh and sterile—though you can use powdered goat milk as well (it may be a great alternative for babies who have a hard time digesting traditional cow milk-based formulas).
Quen is now almost 8-months old and he loves his fresh goat milk. And at nearly 20 pounds I’d say it loves him right back.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.