When I started out with my family, I was an absolute fanatic about breastfeeding. I knew that breastfeeding was the best way to nourish a growing infant and that commercial formula was junk. I couldn’t understand why any mother would give a bottle to her baby.
My first child, a girl, was born in 1973. She was very healthy, but cried almost constantly. As a result I nursed her very frequently during her first few months—sometimes as often as every hour. I spent the first few months of her life in utter exhaustion—although I did learn to eat with my left hand, as I often nursed her at mealtimes. Fortunately, my husband’s income allowed me to stay at home and I had no other children or duties, so I never had to supplement her diet with formula. I did, however, introduce solid foods fairly early, about four months, and once I did, her crying stopped and I could enjoy her and my life again. Although I never gave her a bottle, she refused the breast at eight months and from that time on I gave her whole milk, with which she had no problems whatsoever.
My second child, a healthy boy, was born four years later. Once again, I planned to nurse him whatever it took. I found that I was nursing every half hour per hour—very difficult when you have another child, a husband and a household to take care of. I was absolutely exhausted of course but worse than that, I seemed to have even less milk than before. By the age of one month he had not only stopped gaining weight, but was losing. I had a letdown reflex, but there was very little milk that followed. I tried valiantly for about two weeks—the worst two weeks of my life, but he continued to lose weight. He had a strained, sallow look and I was frantic. My pediatrician was a big advocate for breastfeeding—that’s why I chose him—but the only “expert” advice he could give me was to tell me that I was too tense and that I should relax! Yes, indeed, I was tense, tense as only a mother who sees that her baby is hungry can be.
Fortunately. . . fortunately I had in my possession a book called Nutrition for Tots to Teens by Dr. Emory Thurston, which contained a recipe for whole milk baby formula. We lived in California at the time and I made up a simple formula of raw milk with lactose added. When I gave this to the baby, he wolfed it down and then smiled for the first time. I knew I had done the right thing.
It was only after I informed my pediatrician about giving him the formula, and the baby’s reaction to it, that he told me about the Lact-Aid, a device that allowed me to nurse while giving him a supplemental feeding. Had he told me earlier, I could have avoided those awful two weeks when my baby was at risk. Instead, he withheld valuable—no, lifesaving—information from me.
With the raw-milk formula given with the Lact-Aid, and the small amount of breast milk that I was producing, the baby thrived. But even though I was now relaxed, and had the stimulation at the nipple, my milk supply did not increase. In fact, by six months, I no longer produced any milk at all and the breastfeeding was over.
With the third child, also a boy, the situation was the same. As soon as I could see that he was not satisfied with my breast milk, I hooked up the Lact-Aid with the raw milk formula and he grew by leaps and bounds. He was the biggest of my babies—over nine pounds at birth and fifteen pounds at three months. He had a voracious appetite. By three months, my milk had dried up and I fed him with a bottle.
The last child, another healthy boy, was born in France. By that time I had accepted the inevitable, and knowing that the situation would be even more difficult with three other children to look after, I had already scouted out a source of raw milk. I had to start with the raw milk formula and the Lact-Aid at one week. By the age of two months, he had the bottle exclusively and the breastfeeding was over.
Now all my children are healthy—they were rarely sick, none needed braces, and all have grown up into high-functioning adults—but the interesting thing is that the last child, who only got two months of breast milk, is the healthiest of all. I am sure it was because of the high quality of the milk in France —from pasture-fed cows. A third of the bottle was beautiful yellow cream. This child has literally never been sick in his life and was the most cheerful of all the children—he is also the smartest and the only one who doesn’t need glasses. My second child, although quite healthy, did have some problems with asthma, and still gets hay fever at times. This may be due to the fact that for about a month in his infancy, he did not get adequate nutrition, and I blame myself for being too fanatical about breastfeeding and not supplementing soon enough.
My difficulty with breast feeding was indeed a humbling experience and it has given me a great deal of sympathy for mothers who have the same problems. I have never found an adequate explanation for my lack of milk—my diet was relatively good, I did not have a thyroid problem, I did not consume junk foods, I had support at home, my babies were healthy, I had a letdown reflex and no problems with the breasts or nipples. Nevertheless, my milk supply was simply not adequate, certainly not for rapidly growing boys.
When I hear the statement that “the vast majority of women can breastfeed successfully,” I wonder. One holistic doctor told me that he sees this problem in his practice only very occasionally—perhaps once a year. But I suspect that there are many women like myself who simply do not have adequate milk. The problem is under-reported because these women just give up early, citing fatigue or fussiness in the baby as the reason for switching to bottle feeding. The same situation exists in the animal world—dairymen will tell you that not all cows are good milkers, and with dogs and cats it is the same. When pets have inadequate milk, the pups and kittens are either bottle-fed or they die.
The good news is that my babies had no problems on raw-milk formula—they grew up as healthy as children who had been breastfed. In fact, they are healthier than lots of individuals who have been breastfed for many months. One acquaintance of mine breastfed both her children for four years, but otherwise took no care with her diet. These two girls have been unhealthy since infancy. They get frequent colds and have poor bone structure. One is overweight and has learning disabilities. Another friend also nursed several years and in the first year the baby got breast milk exclusively. Her child has multiple health problems—leaky gut syndrome, multiple allergies and learning disabilities. It turns out that when her child was born, she had a gall bladder problem and the doctors put her on a lowfat diet. So her milk did not have adequate fat-soluble vitamins, hence the baby did not have the necessary components to build a healthy gut wall and make connections in the brain.
We even have a report of rampant dental decay in a baby who was exclusively breast fed for over a year. The mother was a vegetarian. Pediatric dentistry is the fastest growing medical speciality because of rampant decay in newly erupted baby teeth!
We need to keep our eyes on the goal—which is healthy children. Breastfeeding is the best way to accomplish this goal, if the mother has a healthy diet and if her milk supply is adequate. To pretend that all women can breastfeed without difficulty, and that all breast-milk is completely nourishing, does women and their children a great disservice. Let’s not withhold information as my pediatrician did when I was having difficulties. Women need to know that there are other options besides commercial formula, and that a healthy supplement can be given to a hungry baby even while he suckles at the breast.
Above all, we need to work together to make raw milk from pasture-fed cows universally available so that mothers have a viable alternative to commercial formula.