Friday, February 5, 2010

Jonathan's Story: How Real Food Healed My Son

The picture above was taken September 17, 2007 when my son, Jonathan, was 3 months old. It's hard to believe that the face above is the same face as that of my smiling, chubby, 2 and a half year old. Many people don't believe me when I show them his early baby pictures. How did this sallow-faced, acid-reflux, colicky baby of three months old who was dropping percentiles every month become the thriving, rarely-sick, joyful boy who wore a size 2T at 20 months? The answer: Real Food.

For the most part, Jonathan's pregnancy was textbook. After a traumatic birth with many complications of his older sister, it was nice for everything to go smoothly. I followed a Weston Price diet of raw milk, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, and cultured beverages daily. I exercised, I wasn't too stressed. Everything went perfectly, and he was born a good size of 7#, 6 oz just a few days after his due date.

Not everything was perfect, however. My attempt to birth him VBAC had failed due to cephalo-pelvic disproportion (I have very narrow hips and tend to birth big-headed babies who never engage). That wasn't so bad in itself, but the administration of lots and lots of antibiotics during labor (for Strep B) probably posed a problem for little Jonathan's gut. I also have a low milk supply due to breast hypoplastia, which is a lack of glandular tissue. I nurse, but must always supplement. Thankfully, I was able to continue nursing my daughter until she was four years old thanks to a device called a Lact-Aid. I thought that perhaps my supply would improve with my second child, but all of the pumping, herbs, and nourishing food I ate did not significantly improve the situation.

Jonathan needed supplementation (as per the lactation specialists and the pediatrician's advice) so I quickly sought out the ingredients for the Weston A Price Raw Milk formula. I was so proud that I could at least make his food with my own hands, if my body could not. I knew this was far better than anything in a can, and I wasn't worried in the least about "raw milk germs" because of the immense trust and faith I have in my farmer, Chrissie, who uses immaculate cleanliness practices in her small, certified dairy.

In spite of the near-perfection of the raw milk formula (it was scientifically formulated by Dr. Mary Enig, PhD and world-renown fats expert, to mimic the properties of breast milk as closely as possible) it just didn't agree with Jonathan. He was gassy, burpy, and spitting up constantly. In an effort to improve the digestibility of the formula, I began using kefir made from raw milk since it is already predigested and full of probiotics. To my utter surprise, this made things worse!

There was lots of spitting up. Feedings spanned 45 minutes to an hour. There was bad gas that was keeping him from being able to sleep. And worst of all, he wasn't growing.

At every well baby check up in those first three months, he fell a percentile each time. He went from 50th percentile at birth to less than the 5th percentile in 3 months. My pediatrician, being the non-alarmist that she is, patiently allowed nature to take its course a few months before she suggested an acid reflux medication and Nutramagen formula (it's that expensive formula that smells awful).

At that point, commercial formula was totally out of the question for me. I saw the damage it did to my daughter, and I knew this ultra-high heat processed product was not food. It may have had chemically-formulated vitamins and minerals added, but it was chock full of soybean oil (an industrial waste product) and corn syrup solids. Not real food that my baby needed.

We had explored the breastmilk donor option, but none were available that I trustedHope was beginning to dry up. I tried the Liver Formula (using bone broth and chicken livers) from Nourishing Traditions and the results were a less gassy baby for sure, but there was still no growth. In fact, his stools turned an awful dark black which is totally not natural for a baby!

The Nourishing Traditions book has a brief mention of goat milk formula, but doesn't seem to extol its virtues as much as cow milk, and gives very little information about it. I decided to give it a try since a relative of my husband's had been raised on raw goat's milk. He turned out beautifully, so I figured it was worth a try.

I began making phone calls to the limited goat dairies in Oregon. There aren't many anyway, and all but one had dried their does up for the winter, which is common.

Enter Kim Walters, an amazing mother of 6, including two autistic sons, who homeschools and runs her goat dairy with her husband, Gary (who works a full-time job away from the farm). Kim's heart's desire is to help babies just like Jonathan; babies for whom neither breastmilk nor formula are options. Kim has helped many, many babies thrive on the goatie milk, and takes a personal interest in supporting and loving all of us weary moms.

Before I first spoke to Kim on the phone, I had lost hope. I knew goat milk would help him, but I couldn't find a source. When Kim said "I can have 3 gallons for you this afternoon, when can you get here?" I about fainted! Kim said "Of course I'll help you! You have a baby!!" The Walters family generously sacrifices their own supply, along with other faithful customers, so that a baby in need can come to the top of her list. Since winter is a low producing time for goats, she gets what she can and gives it first to the young ones who need it most.

As soon as we returned home from the goat farm, I immediately fed Jonathan the goat milk. He guzzled the entire 5 ounces down in 5 minutes (remember, it had taken 45 minutes previously!) and I was amazed at the changes I noticed almost immediately. This picture was taken just a few weeks after Jonathan started drinking the goat's milk. I started noticing that his stools turned yellowish/green. He immediately became more alert and quickly filled out in his face. Within a couple of weeks, we returned for a weight check and found that in two weeks, he had gained two pounds (and he had only been drinking the goat milk for about one week at that point!).

His growth continued to take off. People noticed and commented on how big he looked all of the sudden. His clothes became tighter and there was fat around his wrists. The gas and reflux became a thing of the past overnight.

I believe that goat milk is liquid gold (next to breast milk, of course!). There are too many virtues of goat's milk to list here, including smaller fat molecules that more closely mimic mother's milk. The protein structure differs dramatically from cow's milk, as does the lactose. Essentially, it's a different chemical altogether. I will devote a separate post in the near future to most specifically talking about the benefits of goat's milk and share what formula I personally used for Jonathan. Until then, check out this resource for a comparison of raw milk to infant formula/pasteurized formula published in Scientific American.

At this point in time, I made a choice to work more closely with my naturopath in healing Jonathan's gut, which had been damaged by the prolonged use of cow milk. We gave him L-glutamine to heal the gut lining and additional L-Bifidus probiotics. Although Jonathan grew and developed tremendously on the goat's milk, he did go through what I believe was an intense detox period as his body let go of accumulated toxins (from undigested cow milk proteins). This manifested itself as a runny nose that was persistent for about 8 weeks total.

In due time, Jonathan's gut healed and he began to enjoy a variety of nourishing foods. I started him on chicken liver pate and broth, along with avocado, sweet potatoes and egg yolk. Initially his gut was not ready for egg yolk, so we held off until after a year. I introduced sauerkraut and lacto-fermented beets, which he loves. Sardines and salmon were also a favorite, along with butternut squash.

Armed with more information this time around, I was determined not to go down the empty carb path that so many children find themselves on, my first daughter included. I introduced Jonathan to real food from the start, and he got no crackers, pretzels, bread or grains of any kind (babies lack amylase, the enzyme that digests grains, until they get their 2 year molars). Nor did I introduce refined sugar, and I limited fruits so that he could develop a taste for vegetables (covered with plenty of healthy fat like coconut oil and butter). Of course there was also the Cod Liver Oil, which he excitedly takes every day and asks for more! Train them young!

I am so thankful for Kim and for the sacrifices she makes every day for babies like Jonathan. I am incredibly thankful as well for the support I received along the way from my Naturopath and the few close friends who knew the truth (that I was feeding my child raw, homemade formula!) and didn't give me grief about it! I think the proof was in the pudding, in this case!

I hope someday to keep a goat so that we can free up Kim's supply for others, but goat milk is a mainstay in my kids' lives. They both still love their goatie milk and it's worked wonders to help my daughter as well!

Jonathan is two and a half now and is growing bigger every day. He's wearing a size 3T, talks in sentences, and has a huge vocabulary. Other than the occasional cough and runny nose, Jonny is healthy, active boy who can be seen speeding down the sidewalk on his scooter. Everyone who knows him can attest to his almost other-worldly sweetness and peacefulness. Always smiling, Jonny brings the joy of life to all he encounters.

My prayer and hope is that more mothers who feel like commercial formula is their only option will be able to try this real food baby formula if they face irreparable milk supply issues as I did. Of course, if you have a low supply, please see a lactation specialist before supplementing! There is LOTS you can do to improve your supply!

Guest post by:
Carrie E Thienes
Nutritional Consultant
Whole Food Nutrition made Simple & Affordable
Carrie Thienes is the mother of two amazing children who have been the inspiration for everything she's learned about nutrition. She is currently completing her certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and offers Nutritional Consulting Services. She also writes articles for her blog Organic and Thrifty and is excited to be part of the nurture e-community!

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