Fed Is Best: Formula Substitute Recipe

Thankfully, human breastmilk is recognized around the world as the best source of nourishment for a baby. What a relief to put that debate to rest, after decades of marketing tactics by formula companies that led many women to believe their goddess-given, life-sustaining nectar is inferior. Now, as a whole, we can recognize and validate the art of breastfeeding for the gorgeous, miraculous act that it is. But for the women who don't produce enough milk, who struggle for whatever reason to breastfeed, or who simply choose the bottle, I would say this: "Fed is best." Your giving and loving is good. Thank you for feeding your child. You are doing a great job. I've been there. My first two children self-weaned at four and three months. It was devastating. Now currently breastfeeding my third child nine months after his birth, I feel victorious in having made it this far. It wasn't easy. No, not at all. From the moment he was cut out of my body we had to fight for it. I've lost track of how many times I've googled "how to increase breastmilk supply." I've pumped in bathrooms, offices, and freeways. We've nursed on demand, anywhere and everywhere. I've guzzled gallons of tea and swallowed countless capsules of herbs and supplements. (I'll write more on boosting supply another time.) We have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship, and I'm damn proud of us.

But yesterday, after a month of struggling with a lagging supply and dwindling freezer stash, he was just too hungry. Unable to nap or be soothed, I realized the time had come for supplementing. Instead of succumbing to feelings of failure as I did with my first two children, I went to the market with joy in my heart and purchased some raw, grass-fed cow's milk. With yet another gallon of Mother's Milk tea brewing on the stove, I assembled a delicious formula substitute for my son. He loved it! I rejoiced! We did it! It's all okay. He is fed, that is what matters. So with no further ado, here is the recipe I used, with a few helpful tips and links.

Cow's Milk Formula Substitute

  • 2 C raw, grass-fed cow's milk (it can be tricky to find, but start your search here. I found it at Sprouts. If you are unable to find raw milk, then try goat's milk, organic pasteurized milk, etc.)
  • 1/4 C homemade liquid whey (it's so easy! I used a nut milk bag and it worked beautifully. I made the whey from plain, organic whole milk yogurt from Trader Joe's.)
  • 4 T lactose (try Amazon. I couldn't find it anywhere else.)
  • 1/4 tsp bifodobacterium infantis (I used Udo's Choice Infant Probiotic, which is carried at many whole food stores)
  • 2 T organic cream, not ultra-pasteurized (this was also tricky to find, as nearly all creams these days are ultra-pasteurized. I finally found some at Sprouts and Whole Foods.)
  • 1 tsp Udo's Oil 3-6-9 Blend (I found it at Whole Foods, but you can also buy it online. Other formula substitute recipes call for the use of the individual oils found in this blend. I found it more cost effective to buy this high quality blend rather than each oil separately.)
  • 1 tsp organic extra virgin olive oil (in my experience, Trader Joe's has the best prices for this. You can also buy it online here.)
  • 2 tsp organic coconut oil (Trader Joe's sells 16 oz. for $5.99, which is the best deal I've found. You can also buy it online here.)
  • 1/2 tsp. nonflavored fermented cod liver oil (find it here)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast (carried by many whole food stores, or you can buy it online here.)
  • 2 tsp bovine gelatin (no luck at any stores here in LA, so I bought it online. Adds protein and a slight thickening to the formula.)
  • 1/4 tsp acerola powder (I searched at multiple health food stores but to no avail. Finally bought it here.)
  • 1 7/8 C water (just remove 2 T water from 2 C. Be sure to use either filtered or distilled!)

Combine water and gelatin in saucepan and heat just until gelatin has dissolved. Then add all ingredients in blender and mix well. I used a low setting on my Vitamix for about 30 seconds.

You can find the original recipe here. I made a few changes to my recipe... I use the Udo's Oil 3-6-9 blend instead of purchasing individual oils that various recipes I researched call for. I also did not include the optional high vitamin butter oil, because it's expensive and I am still giving my son breastmilk anyway, so I excluded it.

You might notice that guilt, shame, and failure are not included in this recipe. So long as you are doing your best to nourish and love your child (and yourself), then you have succeeded. Give yourself a hug, pour yourself a glass of wine, and remember that in the end, it's the love you have for your child that matters the most.

Making liquid whey is easy! And then you have fresh cream cheese leftover! Yum.

The final product!

Happy baby, happy mama. A bottle full of love. Success.

(This is not intended to provide medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with your pediatrician for what is best for your baby.)

If you are breastfeeding and/or pumping, check out my favorite hands-free pump bra by PumpEase and my go-to breastmilk boosting herbal supplements Euphoric Herbals. Using code EBP at checkout gives you a 15% discount off your total order. 

Disclosure: many of the active links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase through these links, Empowered Birth Project receives a small commission and there is no difference in cost for you. It helps support us and every little bit counts. Thank you!! 

New Contributor to EBP Blog: Meet Stepha Lawson

Hello readers and lovers of Empowered Birth Project! My name is Stepha. I am a mama to a boy named Rio, a birth doula, and I facilitate a support group for mothers—focused on helping women understand and integrate and reclaim their birth experiences that did not go as planned, were challenging and/or traumatic. I am an artist of many mediums and forever a student—right now my favorite subjects to study are somatic psychology, where science and spirit collide, and how fear is a gift. I hike in the old-growth forests near my home in the Pacific Northwest and I really love to decompress with a good ol’ science-fiction/fantasy TV show. I am teaming up with Katie as a regular contributor to the EBP blog!

From my background as a little girl obsessed with birth (pregnant Barbies for days) to becoming a doula years before I eventually gave birth myself, a planned homebirth that became a hospital transfer/medicated delivery of my son, I found the process of trying to integrate, repair and claim my birth experience as mine, remarkably complicated. When the shock wore off and I finally found direction within my sadness and confusion, I found myself frustrated and I found myself writing.

For the multitude of reasons of how you came to be here, be it curiosity, anger, intrigue, grief, your own critical thinking, it is my intention to be nuanced within a very complex issue so we can find this a space to spark some very cool conversations. Conversations regarding birth practices, birth theories and the collective narrative fueling both sides of the spectrum today—bringing empathetic yet necessary value and critique to both the ‘natural’/homebirth community and obstetrical/technocratic care. To engage in those types of conversations—the ones a rising collective of us want to address: why, on both sides, feelings of failure and shame and guilt and sorrow and jealousy are so easily spread among mothers today, why there exists within hidden and obvious social hierarchies this idea there is a right/wrong way to birth, how subtle tactics and fault-finding language is used that ends up fear-mongering and guilt-tripping others, and, what trauma is and how to repair. And how babies are built for resilience and how we can reclaim our birth experiences as ours.

All while trying to simultaneously empower women without dis-empowering women. All the while trying to use language that does not sounds like ‘I know the answer’ or ‘I know the way’. I feel excited and a little nervous embarking on this project because the blog world is a beast I have not networked with personally before. I do and do not know what I am getting myself into but here we go. How we birth, how birth happens, and how we feel about it is a tricky and exhilarating subject to interact with. To know how to touch both sides of the extreme so we can assemble the bridge together. I am glad you are here. Let’s build something!

A Morning With Jade: Part I


Although I didn't realize it until recently, I've been crushing on Jade Beall's photography ever since I started my Instagram page nearly a year ago. Her gorgeous photographs of human beings, particularly mothers, have been circulating social media outlets as the topic of women's empowerment has become mainstream dialogue. So when her Facebook post about her cancellations in LA crossed my screen as I was laid up in bed with the stomach flu, I knew that my vision of creating art with her was now a reality. She skipped the handshake and went straight for the hug and kiss on the cheek. Jade is a lover of humanity, of every living being and the stories that come with them. One needs only to gaze upon her work to understand that Jade doesn't just photograph the body, she photographs the naked, bare soul.

And no experience in my life has ever stripped me completely bare and raw quite like the birth of my third son last June. With a professional film crew on stand-by to capture what was supposed to be an unassisted home birth, I found myself being cut open in the OR after 35 hours of progressive signs of distress. Knowing that were it not for the emergency cesarean we both would've died, I found myself deeply changed by the experience. It was ugly, brutally painful, and yet profoundly beautiful.

These photographs were taken in celebration of the last nine months of healing and personal growth. We have arrived full circle, at least in the context of time, as we have now been two separate beings for a long as we were one. So here we are. Raw and stripped bare as all birth really is. I have developed such love and appreciation for my new postpartum body. When I step back and look at it just the way it is today, my insecurities fade away and become insignificant. Because my baby and I are alive, we are loving, we are fluctuating and changing with every life experience. With every breath. And so I share these photographs with you to share the beauty of motherhood, which is really the beauty of all humanity.

Thank You Apple Guy

Dear Friendly Apple Guy, Yesterday I walked into your store wearing the same clothes I was in two days before, no shower, no makeup, exhausted, dehydrated, and terrified of surviving the next hour in a busy store with my fussy 4-month old son. We lasted about 15 minutes before my overtired baby began to cry. It's never my preference to breastfeed in a room full of 100+ strangers, and I've heard horror stories of women who have been publicly humiliated for feeding their babies without a cover. But when I latched my baby to my bare breast right in front of you, you didn't miss a beat. There was not a hint of disgust or repulsion in your eyes. In fact, when I timidly asked you to snap a photo of the moment for my social media project, you smiled widely and proceeded to spend 10 minutes getting a good shot while my phone was busy updating. You told me all about how you worked at Disneyland and saw moms nursing their babies all the time and how you think it should be considered totally normal. You agreed with me that it's important to share these moments on social media to empower women to breastfeed their babies without fear. And thanks to your beautiful, compassionate support, I felt victorious and powerful in that moment. I was too tired to remember your name, but whoever you are, thank you on behalf of all breastfeeding mothers. Thank you for helping us change the way the world views the sight of a woman nurturing her child.

(And thank you, Apple, for making products so interesting that pretty much everyone in the store was too distracted to notice me anyway.)

Sincerely, A Grateful Mother


Postpartum Day 139


Postpartum Day 139… Lately I’ve been feeling great, in large part thanks to #4thtriyogachallenge. My foreign postpartum body is becoming more familiar and comfortable. A general sense of calm and stability has replaced the emotional and physical roller coaster that is the 4th trimester… for the most part. Every so often something will remind me that I’m not quite “there” yet.

Today it was pure exhaustion.

By 11 am I was ready to collapse into a teary, crumpled postpartum mess. We had planned a coastal drive in my brother-in-law’s fun convertible and I almost decided to stay home and sleep… but my soul was longing for sunshine and fresh air.

As we were cruising through the heaven that is California, blasting music and drinking in the ocean views, I sank into my breathing and gave thanks to be alive. I reminded myself that happiness is a choice, and that I have the power to put a smile on my face no matter how tired I am.

And the world needs more of my smile, my husband and children especially. I want them to see me loving motherhood and loving life.

So I made a resolution today to complain less and smile more. Life is too precious not to.