a hungry boy and homemade formula

a week before thanksgiving i took jack to the doctor for an eye infection.  i thought it would be a quick visit, they would confirm if his eye was truly infected (no improvement after keeping it clean and treating it with breastmilk for 48hrs), we would determine a course of action and that would be that.  well, that visit turned into a whole lot more…

the routine weight check revealed that jack had lost 9oz over the 6 weeks since his last appointment (at which point he had been trending upward).  yikes!  losing weight in any amount isn’t a good thing for babies and especially when you’re a string bean like my little boy.  clearly, he was not getting enough to eat.  i was honestly shocked.  jack had never really given any clear indication that he was still hungry.  he would nurse fully on both sides and when he was done, he was done.  no whining or crying or complaining.  he was still happy and smiley.  i assumed that if he wasn’t getting enough and was still hungry, he would “tell me”!  nope.  apparently he takes after his daddy and eats what’s put before him but otherwise doesn’t think about it.  (i have no idea what that’s like!)  jack’s sleeping had seemed to “regress” over the prior 4-6 weeks. where he had been sleeping a good long stretch, waking up to nurse once between 2-4am and then going right back down till 7/7:30, he had begun to wake up every 3ish hours or so during the night.  i would just nurse him and then he always went right back to sleep.  this also had pretty much started around our trip to Michigan, so i assumed it was a result of traveling/jet lag/being off schedule, etc.   again, because he never acted hungry after a feeding, i never assumed the sleeping troubles were connected to eating.  another thing had had happened on our trip – my cycle had returned.  the more i thought about it, the less shocked i became.  it was actually all starting to make sense.  my supply must have started dwindling with the return of my cycle and jack, being the happy, pretty laid-back kid that he thus far has seemed to be, never complained – so i had no idea.

the doctor handed me a can of formula and instructed me to give him 2oz 3x/day in addition to nursing.  i went out to my car and cried as i stared at the can of formula.  i wasn’t upset that my body couldn’t provide enough for my child.  i was upset because he had not been getting enough to eat and i had no idea!  i felt awful!! the thought just broke my heart!  and i also cried because as i stared at the list of ingredients on the can, i kept thinking, “i can’t do it.  i just can’t give this to my son.  but i have to give him something!”  i have my own personal convictions and opinions about commercial formula that make me very uncomfortable with giving it to my son.  but what other option did i have??

**(let me just stop right here and share word of explanation as well as my heart: to any and all of my friends who have used/do use commercial formula – i sincerely hope you can read this without hearing any judgment from me, for i certainly mean none toward you whatsoever!  i promise, i have not been silently judging you in my head while you give your kid a formula bottle.  with every passing day that i’m a mom, i grow more and more aware of how personal and individual the decisions are that you make for each of your children.  heck, they start before you even HAVE children!  from the birth control you choose – or don’t, the type of delivery you choose – or don’t (some women don’t have a choice!), when to vaccinate your baby – or don’t, how and what you feed your baby, sleep scheduling or not, when to start solids and which ones to start with – those decisions have to be made by you and your spouse based on what you feel is best for your child, your family and your season of life.  and the list of decisions above are just within the first 6-12months of your child’s life!  and as i watch my other friends and family members with older kids, i realize that the decisions only increase in volume and complexity as you throw in discipleship and parenting and morals and values – and more kids!  so for ALL of you who may be reading this, please know: i am NOT writing this post to say “this is THE right choice.”  i AM writing this post to share what has become the best option FOR US.  it’s something that i’m in the midst of and currently really excited about and want to share!  one other thing:  i am well aware from my own experiences that many struggles that people encounter in the throes of conception, pregnancy, delivery and infancy are not commonly/openly discussed and therefore can become very lonely trials.  it can feel like things are working smoothly and perfectly for everyone around you… but not for you.  and when faced with a struggle/challenge  you never expected to face, especially the first time around, you can often feel a little (or a lot!) lost, confused, helpless and unaware of options.  so another reason i am sharing what happened is for the sake of any of my friends who may find themselves facing something similar and looking for an alternative solution like i was. and to any of you who think i am crazy and extreme – well… isn’t that part of being a parent?  oh the crazy things we do for our kids… 😉 )**

i called zach and told him what had happened and poured all my tears and fears and concerns and opinions.  he helped calm me down and assured me that everything was going to be just fine and we would do the best we could and find a good solution for jack.  he also reminded me that jack’s health and growth and gaining weight were the most important things here and if we needed to set aside a few of our ideals for a short time in order to make sure he got what he needed, then that was ok too.  this was not going to be the last time we would face a decision like this.  🙂  after hanging up the phone i took a deep breath and began driving home from the Dr’s office.  on the drive i suddenly remembered (translate: the holy spirit brought to mind!) a blog post i had read just a few days earlier from a mom who had to stop breastfeeding and instead made her own formula using goat’s milk.  i jumped on the computer as soon as i got home.  as soon as i re-read the post i KNEW that this was the solution for us.  i already have a fairly strong leaning toward doing things “naturally” and zach has grown accustomed to my thinking and has even started to get on board with a lot more of it – so it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get him to “let” me give this a try.  🙂

(btw – increasing my supply of breastmilk wasn’t much of an option – i had been getting plenty of calories and tons of water already… and a pump had stopped having any effect on me over a month prior.  plus, even if i was able to get my supply up, that would take time i didn’t have.  my son needed something NOW.)

from what i’ve researched and understand, goat’s milk is actually the one type of milk that most closely resembles a human mother’s breastmilk, making it the ideal choice for a formula base.  all the other ingredients on the list help provide the additional nutrients, vitamins, minerals and immunity boosters found in breastmilk in a more naturally-occuring state.  i actually recognized pretty much everything on the list of ingredients and was able to obtain them easily from Sprouts or amazon.  we know a family who raises goats for their milk and has very kindly agreed to give me some of it since they aren’t able to consume it all themselves – what a blessing! any additional goat milk that i need i buy from whole foods or trader joe’s.

i spent about $200 in up front ingredients and supplies, which should last me for several months. (i’m hoping to only need 1 round of supplies as we’re planning to start jack on solid foods in january)  i eagerly made up a batch of the formula, filled up a bottle and gave it to jack.  aaaaand he wanted NOTHING to do with it.  he grimaced and turned away and spit it out.  and i started to cry all over again.  what was i going to do?!  well duh.  he had never had anything other than breastmilk up until this point – of course it was going to taste weird to him!  we needed to transition him onto it slowly, mixed with breastmilk.  more tears on my part because i didn’t have any breastmilk left in the freezer to use!  my sister-in-law came to the rescue and gave me 2 bags of frozen breastmilk that i used to transition jack over.  and boy did he guzzle!  after the first few bottles it became obvious that my supply had dwindled MUCH more than we realized.  instead of giving him 2 extra ounces 3x/day, i would nurse him on both sides and then he would drain a 5oz bottle!  i was simultaneously sad and thrilled.  sad that he had wanted/needed so much more to eat for over a month and i hadn’t known, but thrilled that he was now going to get all the food he needed – AND it was a solution that i felt comfortable, excited even, giving to him.  the sad feelings abated quickly and my heart soared with each bottle he drained.

after 12 days of nursing + formula, we went back to the Dr for his 6month check up.  he had not only re-gained the weight he had lost, but gained almost an additional full pound MORE!  YEAH!  and within 2-3 weeks his sleeping went back to what it had been before – and is continuing to get even better.  we might, just might, be on the brink of him sleeping through the night!

i’ve made several more batches of the goat milk formula.  like the mom in the recipe post, i actually make 6-8 batches at once, freezing what i don’t need right away and keeping the rest in the fridge.

the ingredients:
photo 1

i put each batch’s added ingredients in a small dish first – especially helpful when you’re making 6 batches at once!
photo 2

my parents have a vitamix machine – with TWO containers!  i find this method to be the quickest and easiest for mixing up the formula.  once we move into our house and i get all my stuff back from storage, i plan to just use my ninja blender.  in goes the milk and water, then 1 small dish of the extra nutrients.
photo 3

my finished formula – i learned the hard way to leave plenty of extra room at the top AND to let them freeze for 24hrs WITHOUT the lids first.  yeah… let’s just say this is my second round of mason jars.  the other set is laying in pieces in the trash can (the formula was able to be salvaged and strained, thank goodness).
photo 4

it takes me less than 1.5 hrs to make 2 weeks’ worth of formula!

he likes it!
photo 5

i’m so excited and grateful that God led us to this particular solution.  not to over-spiritualize it, but i truly believe that this came about as clear leading and provision from God – an answer to the tearful, desperate prayers of a mom who didn’t know what else to do and really wanted to find an alternative.  but most importantly, i’m elated that my son is putting on weight again and growing, growing, growing!  (not to mention sleeping long stretches at night again.  i’m pretty excited about that too!)

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