A number of my blog readers are familiar with adoption in some way.  It occurred to me that we do something with our babies that is not well-known to most adoptive parents, so I thought I would share.  FYI, this is a post that is intended more for women, so be forewarned, guys!

R, 3 months

When it comes to feeding baby, there are so many choices out there!  Where do you start?  Anyone who know us, knows that we strongly believe God’s way is always best, so for human babies, that would be mother’s breastmilk.  This is not always possible in adoption, though.  Notice I didn’t say NEVER possible. 

I nursed my first two, biological children.  When we adopted A, I heard about inducing lactation, and thought I’d give it a try.  Adoption definitely throws a few kinks into inducing, though, so I also invested in a Supplemental Nursing System.  I did not have a great deal of success at lactating, though I did produce some milk for a while, but I used the supplemental system until the inconvenience and difficulty remaining modest caused me to give it up.  Eventually, we wound up turning to the bottle, with standard commercial formula. 

Soon after, though, I became familiar with donor breastmilk.  Essentially, the most well-known places for donor milk is milk banks, where lactating women are carefully screened, blood tested, and then they voluntarily collect their excess milk in the required manner and donate it to the milk bank.  The milk bank then pasteurizes and cleans the milk, and stores it in freezers.  Then, they turn around and sell it to babies in need–most often preemies in NICU, but for other reasons as well.  The problem here, is that typically (though not always–each bank is different) the bank sells the milk for $20-$40 per ounce.  OUCH!  Furthermore, you often can’t just go purchase some, but must have a physician’s prescription for your baby, so it is carefully controlled.  The option excited me, though, so I started doing a little research into the dangers of donated breastmilk. 

Not longer after, I realized that my sister-in-law, who had a baby just a few weeks prior to A’s birth, had a surplus of milk in her freezer.  She offered to mail it to me, and we excitedly agreed to it.  She would carefully pack the frozen milk in newspaper and dry-ice, and ship it 2-day to wherever we lived.  Although it was never enough to fully sustain our baby, it offered a wonderful, God-created, supplement to our baby, who had had a rough start anyway.   When N was born the following year, he, too was started on bottle feeding commercial formula.  Then, just a month later, my sister-in-law gave birth again.  Once again, she supplied us with her surplus milk, so our baby had real mother’s milk as a supplement to give him the best start we could. 

Later, though, we discovered a problem.  Both A and N had a battle with eczema for the entire first year.  I tried everything to treat it–creams, coconut oil, prescriptions (for A), airing it out, you name it.  As they got onto solid foods, I closely monitored to see if it could be a food allergy.  The boys had completely different genetics, and they both ate formula and breastmilk from the same person.  The breastmilk was only available at certain times, though, but the eczema problem was constant.  Over time, A was given more solids, yet the eczema continued.  Finally, I attributed the problem to their African American heritage (A is bi-racial, and N is full AA).  I had heard that AA’s have a much bigger problem with eczema.  When A turned a year old, however, I noticed his eczema cleared up.  I had heard they could outgrow it, so didn’t give it much though.  Then, when N turned a year old, his too, cleared right up.  I found that VERY strange and far too coincidental.  There had to be a reason and a cause for it.  So S and I sat down one evening to lay out all the facts.  That is when we realized that during N’s early infancy, we had switched our family to raw cow’s milk.  As soon as the boys turned 12 months old, we took them off the formula and put them onto the raw milk.  It was the only common denominator, and we were certain it HAD to be the formula. 

Then, R came along.  I did not want to give her the commercial formula, but didn’t have a lactating sister-in-law this time.  I also knew that cow’s milk can cause quite a bit of tummy upset for young infants.  So, I decided to do the best I could and try some organic formula.  Very quickly, we realized that the organic formula really irritated R’s tummy.  I didn’t know why, but had no choice but to put her back the on the hospital-issued formula, which was the same type we used with the boys.  Her irritability went away, but I wasn’t happy with the risks of it. 


Then, a friend told me about an organization called “Eats on Feets.”  This is a voluntary group that has formed around the country (and in some other countries), where nursing moms prefer to offer up their fresh, unpasteurized milk to other moms with babies in need.  They donate and do not charge, although it is usually understood that the recipient mom will purchase and provide the needed supplies.  It is a wonderful idea, but of course, using a complete stranger’s milk can be risky.  It becomes the responsibility of the recipient to screen the donor mom for her health issues, and make as educated a decision as possible. 

I decided this was an option well worth pursuing.  Thankfully, my friend happened to know a nursing mom who was willing to donate.  They were good friends, and my friend trusted her health.  I did a bit of research, came up with a list of diseases that the milk banks test for, and requested lab info from the donor mom.  She willingly and understandingly supplied the info, direct from her midwife.  I was able to look over her labs, and since I am a diabetic, I am very well-versed in reading lab paperwork.  Her numbers were clean for everything I was concerned about.  So, we agreed to move forward.  I purchased the bags and some basic supplies she needed, she pumps milk throughout the week in between nursing her own baby, stores it in the freezer, and then I pick it up about once a week.  R then benefitted from the crucial mother’s milk as a supplement to the formula. 

Then, when we moved to the farm life, we took it a step further.  While cow’s milk is hard on an infant’s belly, fresh, raw goat’s milk happens to be a wonderful substitute for breastmilk.  The only real downside of goat’s milk is that it is a bit low in iron.  Orphan babies around the world, however, have still managed to thrive on goat’s milk.  Well, I suddenly found myself with a dairy goat, studied the safety of giving her milk to my baby, and decided it was well worth any risk. 

So now, little R gets about 50% of her diet from her formula (which also counters any iron deficencies in the goat’s milk), about 25% from donor breastmilk, and about 25% from raw goat’s milk.  I think she is the healthiest baby we have ever raised, is absolutely thriving, and has yet to get sick, despite having 4 siblings who bring home all sorts of viruses and bacteria.  Even her pediatrician has been thrilled with her rapid growth, happy demeanor, and overall health. 

In closing, I want to offer several encouragements.  If you are an adoptive mom, or a mom with a baby in need of supplemental milk for any reason, don’t just assume you have no choice but formula.  There are options available.  You just have to do the research.  You may be able to induce your own milk, put word out to your close friends (not-so-close friends might think it a bit strange to help out!)  that you would like to find a donor, or you can look on www.facebook.com and find a local “Eats on Feets” chapter to perhaps start your search for a breastmilk donor.  If you happen to have access to good, clean, healthy, antibiotic-free, raw goat’s milk, that is also an option.  There are tried and proven recipes online where you can even use goat’s milk as a basis for making your own homemade, nutrient-rich infant formula to feed at every feeding.  Information on goat’s milk suppliers can be found at www.realmilk.com, and a good recipe can be found at http://westonaprice.org/ (use the search function).  Finally, if you happen to be a mom, blessed with good milk production, consider donating to another mom in need.  It does take a lot of effort and time, I know, but consider the fact that God has blessed you with the ability to sustain your baby with the healthiest milk available to human babies.  Perhaps using that blessing to bless others less fortunate in that area, and having the satisfaction of using what you have to sustain 2 (or more) young babies, would make that effort worth while.  Your local Eats on Feets chapter would be a good place to start.  There are frequent requests on there for milk.  Just please don’t be offended if the recipient mom requests health info on you.  It means nothing personal–she is simply trying to look out for the wellfare of her own child, and wants to protect that baby as much as possible in a less-than-ideal situation.