Last week after a visit to the doctor it became apparent that Yirmiyahu isn’t gaining enough weight just with nursing. I have a theory about why that is – I think it’s because his palate is high and narrow, and he can’t create enough suction to keep the milk in his mouth. I see there’s a lot of spillage as he nurses and don’t think it’s a milk supply issue, and his sucking is good so I don’t think it’s caused by a weak suck. Whatever the cause is, I needed to do something to address the lack of weight gain.
The day after the doctor visit, I had to travel to Tzfat and hoped to buy goat’s milk from a friend, but we weren’t able to connect in time. Fortunately, she has a neighbor who studies here in Karmiel and she was able to send it with her, and two days later I had two liters of fresh goat’s milk to use. Until I got the milk from her, I used formula from the store. His weight was a really big concern to me – at ten weeks old, he was only a pound more than his birth weight (7 lb) – and immediately remedying this was my top priority.
Before I tell you what I did to make my formula, I’ll share why I didn’t want to use store formula. Firstly, just looking at the ingredient list makes it hard for me to countenance giving this to a baby. It’s very artificial and processed, and I avoid this kind of food for my entire family; since babies with T21 frequently have digestion issues, finding a healthy alternative is especially valuable. I didn’t want to use cow’s milk (even with homemade formula) because so many kids with T21 have allergies and issues with casein and I’d rather take a proactive stance and avoid this issue rather than wait for a problem to later show up.
Soy formula has its own issues; I read a while back that soy formula isn’t supposed to be sold in Israel anymore but I don’t know if that’s accurate, and since I sent dh to the store to make the formula purchase I wasn’t able to see if it was on the shelf. I don’t know what the formula alternatives are available for those with milk allergies, but there must be something. I tried coconut milk but it seemed to upset his stomach, and even if it had been okay for him, what I buy here has stabilizers added and I didn’t want to give him something with preservatives. I tried the broth formula based on Nourishing Traditions and he didn’t get full – he kept drinking and drinking with no satiation.
Then I thought of goat’s milk. It’s high in fat, very digestible and low in allergens. My adaptation of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions is below:
Homemade Goat Milk Formula
- 2 c. raw goat’s milk
- 1 t. cod liver oil
- 1 t. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 t. butter oil (I don’t have this yet but plan to add it once I can get it since it works synergistically with the cod liver oil – I hope to have it in about a month)
- 1 t. organic blackstrap molasses (plan to add this to the next batch)
- 2 t. extra virgin coconut oil
- 2 t. powdered nutritional yeast
- 2 c. filtered water
Mix everything together, and shake well. Yields 36 oz.
I didn’t add nutritional yeast to the first batch, because I wanted to see how he tolerated the basic mixture. If there would have been a reaction, it’s easier to narrow down what is causing the issue if there are fewer ingredients to start with. The nutritional yeast is particularly important when the formula is made with goat’s milk, which is rich in fat but doesn’t have folic acid, but this is something that some children react to so it’s good to be aware of that and pay attention to how your child responds.
Now that I’ve made a batch with nutritional yeast and it’s been tolerated fine, I’ll add in the blackstrap molasses. I’ve written about blackstrap molasses before; it’s a good source of iron and B vitamins.
I add a vitamin supplement called Nutrivene-D twice a day to his bottles. I don’t add this in with the formula because I can better control the amount he gets by adding it to the bottle right before I give it to him – I don’t know in advance how much he’ll drink in the course of a day of the homemade formula and I want to be sure of his dosage. This is a more than just a powdered vitamin supplement; it’s targeted nutritional intervention (TNI) and is formulated specifically with those with T21. At his body weight he’s supposed to be get 1/2 teaspoon broken up into two different feedings.
I also add probiotics to the first bottle of the day. Again, I find it easier to control his intake by doing this separate from the formula mixture. I give Yirmiyahu .05 grams of the 11 strain powdered probiotic for those on the GAPS diet (I happen to have this in the house and it’s a high quality product, but you can use any decent probiotic) – this is equivalent to 13 billion cfus. I started giving Yirmiyahu probiotics when he was four days old and in the NICU – when I pumped milk at home, I added the probiotics to it and then gave it to them at the hospital to use in his feeding tube. I took him for cranio sacral work when he was 2.5 weeks old, and the practitioner commented that I must be giving him probiotics – I said I was but asked how she could know that, and she said that by looking at his tongue she didn’t see the signs she would have expected for a baby who had been on high dosages of antibiotics.
I’m still experimenting with how to most efficiently prepare this formula, but what I did with the last batch was to add everything but the water at one time. When I was ready to prepare a bottle, I added an equal amount of hot water to the amount of formula I was putting in. This made warming it up very simple, and also quickly melted the coconut and olive oils, which solidify in the fridge.
Yirmiyahu has been taking this for over five days now and is doing great. Several of my family members are sure he looks as if he’s gained weight; I haven’t yet checked that (I will in a couple more days) but he’s having plenty of wet and dirty diapers again (which he wasn’t having when I was exclusively nursing). I keep an eye on his stools to see how he’s reacting to what we give him, and this looks like it’s working well for him. The color of his stools on the other things I tried weren’t right – blackish greenish on the broth, lime green on the coconut milk (sorry to be so graphic but this is how I could tell -along with the consistency – that the other things I tried weren’t being properly digested). Now they’re yellowish curds again.
The only day that he had broth formula was when I had to travel to Jerusalem for the day. When I got home, I immediately saw that he looked terrible – peaked. His face was blotchy and pale. This reverted back to normal within a day of nursing, and the skin on his face is still looking good with goat’s milk.
For those who are wondering, I’m still nursing him. I nurse him before I give him a bottle so he gets the benefits of mother’s milk as well as of nursing, and then give him homemade goat formula to boost his calories. He’s drinking huge amounts of this formula, and it’s very gratifying knowing that I’m giving him a high quality nutritionally well-balanced food that is helping his digestive health in both the short and long term rather then harming it.
As far as the cost, I pay 15 shekels for a liter of raw goat’s milk; this works out to approximately $15 a gallon. It’s not cheap but neither is formula – the cost is pretty similar – and this is definitely a better investment in his health!