Goat’s Milk? Really??? A Response to WAPF’s Claim that Homemade Formula is Better Than Breast Milk

In the past week I’ve been reading a lot about the controversy over the Weston A. Price Foundation’s claim that their homemade formula recipe is of better nutritional quality than the breast milk of a mother who doesn’t follow their dietary guidelines. I think the best response I have read is from Best for Babes, and I’m not going to try to replicate that. Just go ahead and read it.

Me, helping a calf learn to drink milk from a pail back in 2008

They have a few recipes for homemade formula including one based on cow’s milk and one on goat’s milk. My initial reaction was this: WHO is guaranteeing the diet of the COW or the GOAT? They recommend milk from pastured animals,  and in a perfect world that would be available without a problem. However, the reality is that the vast majority of dairy produced in the US is fed a diet that they did not evolve (or were not designed, your choice) to eat. In the best case scenario, the cows eat a lot of grain. In the worst case, well… I’ve heard tales of cows being fed chicken carcasses, stale bread, gum still in wrappers, not to mention growth hormonesantibiotics and concerns about how the cows are treated.

My friend’s son visits their cows while out for a stroll

Let me back up here a moment, because sometimes I assume that people understand farm animals better than they really do. Both of my parents grew up on working diary farms here in Connecticut, but I didn’t because the dairy barn on the farm where I grew up burned down in the 1970′s and many of the cows were lost, and my dad’s family reinvented the farm as an orchard (that’s a story for another day). So although I didn’t grow up milking cows twice a day (thank goodness!), my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles did. I’ve heard quite a few stories around the dinner table about milking cows, so what seems to be common knowledge to me is most likely not common knowledge to most people. Although my parents grew up on traditional, small family dairies in New England that were a far cry from today’s industrial dairies, I have always found dairy farming to be an interesting topic. (I even briefly dated a guy who raised “Show Cows” when I was in college, and to be honest I probably liked the cows more than I liked him. Moving on…)

A neighbor’s cows momentarily escaped into our apple orchard

So, let’s assume that the good folks at WAPF did their research and discovered that milk from raw, pasture-fed cows isn’t available (or even legal) for most people. One alternative they offer is their homemade formula recipe using goat’s milk. And this is where I get really offended. Because I thought it was common knowledge that GOATS EAT EVERYTHING. Didn’t you have a children’s book with a picture of a billy goat chewing on a tin can? Oh, you didn’t? Well, let me tell you a story. We’ve had goats in the petting zoo at our farm off and on since I was a little kid, mostly pygmy goats. It’s true, they do eat everything. They had an adorable little house, they could climb up onto the balcony and guess what they ate? They ate the SHINGLES OFF THE ROOF. Yup, the goats ate the shingles. So the idea that the people at WAPF think a homemade forumula made with goat’s milk is HEALTHIER for my child than my own breast milk is completely offensive. My diet may not be WAPF perfect, and I don’t take daily doses of fermented cod liver oil, and I may sneak some treats here and there, but I DO NOT EAT ROOF SHINGLES.

The goat house with Annabelle the Shire (also a lactivist!) standing next to it. 

So, while my family’s farm has five baby goats this year (two sets of twins!) and therefore three lactating goats, you won’t find me milking them to make formula for my baby.  I stand by my previous statement that homemade formula is the ultimate in inconvenience anyway. I’ll just breastfeed my children and know that I’m giving them the best I can.

This year’s baby goats! How sweet!

Cow milk is best for calves, goat milk is best for kids, horse milk is best for foals, and human milk is for human babies. This is my gut reaction as a farmer’s daughter. But of course, that’s not the only facet of who I am. I’m also a scientist; I have a BS and MS in Biology and I’m certified by the state of Connecticut to teach Biology and Physics. So, as a scientifically minded person, my reaction to the claim that homemade formula is better for babies than breast milk is this: PROVE IT. Where is your peer-reviewed research? If there were multiple studies (or even a single study) comparing the nutrients in thousands of samples WAPF’s homemade formula recipes versus the breast milk of thousands of mothers on a variety of diets, then I could understand your conclusion. But if the study doesn’t exist, and I haven’t found one, then your claim is nothing more than conjecture based on your own preconceived notions that the WAPF diet is required for an individual to be healthy and produce healthy breast milk. It’s opinion, not scientific fact, and should be presented as such.

As a biologist, I am aware that we do not understand the workings of the human body in its entirety. We don’t understand exactly how all nutrients work in our cells, and new discoveries are constantly made. We don’t know what component of breast milk could be discovered tomorrow that we simply did not know existed. Take a look at this chart comparing the contents of breast milk and commercial formula. There are so many components of breast milk not found in commercial formula, and we can assume that a similar chart of breast milk vs. homemade formula would be equally revealing, though not an exact duplicate.

Now, I’m not arguing that homemade formula is a bad thing. I understand that many women struggle with breastfeeding, as I myself have struggled the second time around. I understand that many women cannot fully breastfeed or choose to supplement with formula or exclusively formula feed. That’s fine; that’s their choice. My problem is that it is being touted as better than breast milk, and I see no evidence of that claim. I think, however, a better way for WAPF to spread the word about their recipes for homemade formula would be with posts such as this one from Food Renegade. This anecdote of a mother who struggled to breastfeed after reduction surgery and turned to donor milk, a supplemental nursing system and homemade formula is a relatable, interesting story that demonstrate’s one mother’s journey to feed her child in the most nutritious way possible, yet makes no claims that homemade formula is more nutritious than breast milk.

In summation, I disagree with WAPF’s claim that their homemade formula is healthier than my breast milk.

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19 Comments

Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, parenting

19 Responses to Goat’s Milk? Really??? A Response to WAPF’s Claim that Homemade Formula is Better Than Breast Milk

  1. I SO love this! Thank you for posting, I am off to share :)
    Angela recently posted..What Are GMO’s & Why My Family Avoids ThemMy Profile

  2. amanda intactivist lactivist clare

    Wonderfully written! Thank you for your story.

  3. thank you very much for your post! very well said and I am sharing!! As a health coach and natural parenting advocate, I do believe traditional diets are the best for most people, but I often have issues with the WAPF and the way they promote their diet as the only diet. They do not take into account bioindividuality, genetics, or the amazing ability of our bodies to adjust. I was horrified at the rudeness and comments made by Sarah Pope and deeply saddened as I have often directed folks to WAPF website or to Sarah’s blog in the past. (I no longer feel comfortable doing that). I DO NOT agree with anything that they have said about this issue and I 100% agree with you – if they are planning to report this sort of stuff, they need to have it completely back up by UNBIASED peer reviewed studies.

  4. Awesome post, Abbie. WAPF has some interesting ideas, but way too much psuedo-science for me. If you want to present something as valuable b/c it has tradition behind it, sure, that has some weight with me. But don’t try to pass off your opinions and conjectures as science. That really BUGS.
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted..When Shopping for Food, What Matters Most to You?My Profile

  5. Beautiful! I could not agree more….sharing everywhere!
    Tiffany (NatureMom) recently posted..How to Have a Green and Healthy PregnancyMy Profile

  6. Excellent! I like much of what WAPF promotes but they are way off base on this one.
    Deanna West Piercy recently posted..Friday B.S. Roundup ~ April 5, 2013My Profile

  7. Thank you, Abbie! I have been so disappointed in WAPF for this. I love a lot of it and follow many parts but this is just wrong. Is homemade likely better than the store bought stuff? Yes, but nothing is better than breast milk, unless the mother is on a drug that is passed through the milk or something like that.
    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green recently posted..Trip to Tulsa and Meeting Beth TerryMy Profile

  8. karen
    Twitter:

    Oh, mama, if you weren’t married, I’d propose to you. You hit the nail right on the head.

    I hate WPAF’s off the claims often but this takes the cake. You are absolutely right. Dairy milk is for cows, goat milk maybe used for kids (but do they even need milk when they eat healthy prepared meals???) and breast milk for human babies. Why is that so hard to understand??? The digestive tracts for these animals are SOOOO different from ours that milk from these animals with different proteins would make our gut go haywire. No wonder we have so many immunological health issues, including allergies. Our gut is saying, ‘this protein ain’t mine.” and rejects them! Leaky gut syndrome anyone??

    Off to share everywhere. Thanks so much for this.
    karen recently posted..Best Senior Gift for School: A Class QuiltMy Profile

    • Melissa

      I’m pretty sure when she said goats milk is for kids, she was using ‘kid’ as the term for a baby goat, not slang for human child ;-)

  9. I can’t add anything that the previous commenters have, but to say how awesome you are. This is real life based on experience, science, farming wisdom, and simple common sense. WAPF has none in this case.
    Brenna @ Almost All The Truth recently posted..6 Tips to Green Your SpringMy Profile

  10. Erin Ely
    Twitter:

    I totally agree, that breast is best.
    I think some reasoning around the WAPF alternative to breast milk…. if I understand it right their reasoning had to do with contaminants in mothers breast milk…. and I think the reasoning behind the goat milk is that the protein molecules are closer in size to protein molecules from a human….

    I have never agreed with WAPF on this issue, it just does not make sense to me…

    I would still never consider homemade formula better than my own breast milk for my children.

    Thanks for writing about this.

  11. Sandra Mort

    My husband says that CLEARLY you need to be eating more roof shingles.

  12. Wendy Podoloff

    Hey Ab!
    Wonderfully written! I agree! Breast is best!

  13. GREAT post Abbie!!! When Liam was a baby and we were having a terrible time nursing, I had a friend come to me with a version of the goat’s milk homemade formula. She pushed and pushed that I do that and not (as I wound up doing in the end) purchase commercial formula. She added carrot juice to the goat’s milk for an additional vitamin boost. Her son was ORANGE. Nope. I did the very best that I could and when it no longer sufficed, Earth’s Best did. But my child did not look like an Oompa Loompa.

    Personal opinion: half the battle with mother’s being successful at bfing is the desire to make the best choices for your child. And when everyone is throwing all these options to breastmilk around, it gets confusing. Perhaps instead of condemning mothers who aren’t getting the “perfect” diet, they should be guiding them towards making their best choices each day and supporting them when they cannot!
    Laura recently posted..Punctuation, quilting styleMy Profile

  14. Pingback: Dear WAPF… could you *be* any more judgmental?! |

  15. in germany, there are still some peoplewho make their own formula, after a recipe called “halbmilch nach droese und stolley”. but: this milk should not be given to babies under the age of 4 months. and it needs to be enriched with vit a and c sources (usually carrot juice). i gave that to my first child after weaning, but that was more than 20ys ago…
    as for the goats: goat milk doesn’t have enough folatic acid in it.
    mammal recently posted..Sorry, no updates…My Profile

  16. What a great post! Thanks for sharing your perspective, I love it and agree 100%.
    Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings recently posted..Play With Your Food: Hot Dog NoodlesMy Profile

  17. love, Love, LOVE this post! I am a Holistic Nutritionist and I am all for human milk for human babies!!! I have been working on a post since I heard about Sally Fallons statements. I will by far be linking back to yours!!!
    Lindsay recently posted..Journey To A Plant Based Diet Three Week UpdateMy Profile

  18. I’m featuring this post today on The Tuesday Baby Link Up!
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