Healthy Habits: Why I'm Skipping Out on Whole Milk For My Toddler
An Important Disclaimer Before Getting Into This Post
I am not a medical professional, a nutritionist or any kind of cited panel expert. I’m just a research-happy, label-checking parent like the rest of you. My goal is to only bring to my baby what I feel is best for him, and share what I think would be great for yours.
The Formula Journey
So you have a baby, and months 1-3 you're trying to get your breastfeeding or formula feeding down to a novel science. Then finally around month-three you feel confident and things are routine, and you begin to coast. This lasts a short period of time however before your bliss gets thwarted by the often-intimidating introduction of solids (for us we chose this to be month six).
An Example of Gray's Many Food Spread Varieties:
Then as you navigate through purees, baby-led weaning, likes, dislikes and sometimes even allergies; you finally hit a calming-point around month nine where you've kind of figured out your baby - at least through that point. That is until your baby turns The Big One and then boom - you're told that it's time to wean and ditch the baby formula.
So This Is Where Things Get Complicated...
During Gray's first year I did a mix of breastfeeding and formula supplementing. Since I have a career to tend to, the exclusive breastfeeding was done for 4.5 months before I returned to work. Once I was back I nursed twice a day, and Gray had a mix of expressed breast-milk and a sensitive and lactose-free formula via bottle. How we got to that formula compatibility, was a complete disaster!
The Perfect Formula Isn't About What Works For You, The Parent
The quest for the "perfect formula" was a treacherous road. In the beginning, I googled and scoured reviews to see what was considered best and what I needed to try. I ended up with so many unfortunate trials and so much wasted money. I think I ordered nearly every organic formula on the market (Baby's Only, Plum Organics, Vermont Organic, Similac Organic, Earths Best, etc.), only to discover that Gray's gentle system could not tolerate it because of the commonly higher levels of protein found in them which are take more effort to digest and lead to constipation. For him, the constipation was so alarming that it led me to frantically phone my pediatricians, even after hours!
Then I toyed with the European market and tried out some of their most reputable, fool-proof and pricey brands (HIPP, Lebenswert and Holle) and still no-dice. There was spit-up, refusal, upset tummies, and hard poop - again. So finally, what did end up working for us was a good ol' widely available brand that had just launched a newly formulated Sensitive option (at the time), which was designed to imitate breastmilk, and was lactose-free: Similac Pro-Sensitive. This one here, Gray took down with no problem, never caused any spit-up, is GMO free and returned his poop back to mustard-colored beady breastmilk-looking perfection. It literally ended up being complete GOLD in our book, and we stuck with it!
Gray did so great on the Similac Pro-Sensitive, and while I am well aware of the opinions behind mass produced formulas such as Similac and Enfamil; I quickly encountered a hard-learned lesson during my search: finding the perfect formula isn't about what we think is perfect in our minds as Parents, it's 100% about what will work with and for your baby. I went through bottles of the cream of the crop when it came down to formulas and none of them were voluntarily tolerated. So when I stumbled upon what did, that's what I ran with because more important than anything when it comes to your baby's nutrition - is their ability to thrive.
Halloween comes and goes and voila! I have a one-year old! We schedule our 12-month check up and get instructed on the following:
- The importance of a one-year-old's changing nutritional needs
- she pointed out the need to up the intake on solid foods and make them solid meals; this means that Gray would now be having full meals with breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner as any adult would eat; and
- the need to reduce the number of bottles preferably down to two - or 16 ounces per day, reiterating that at this point the bulk of his caloric intake should come from solid food versus bottled milk.
With that, she also told us about the need to begin bottle weaning and transition from baby formula to full-fat milk; as it contains the level of vitamins and minerals that toddlers need at this age. This is where I gave her my forced Chrissy Teigen nod and blank stare. :-/
Now, for those asking why a "toddler formula" and not just a carton milk drink? Well toddler formulas normally contain an added boost of vitamins and minerals - none which hurt, and all which are for the benefit of your tot.
As for our pediatrician's by-the-book suggestions - I'm not a fan of cow's milk, and while she did note that we could consider nut milks as well (almond, coconut, etc); cow's milk for me is just so not a desired option. Plus, without getting into it too heavily, there are tons of studies and credible cited research on the internet that shows just how bad cow milk actually is. To sum it up: today's cow's milk simply isn't what it was 50-years ago, 20-years ago, or even 10-years ago. It's an overly-processed food, treated with an absurd amount of antibiotics, genetically engineered growth hormones, and we (humans) BARELY absorb any of the calcium or nutrients from cow's milk anyway - especially if pasteurized. In fact, you don't even need dairy to absorb minerals like Calcium; something as simple as kale will allow you to absorb twice as much. Also - large consumption of milk has been linked to increasingly weaker bones. To clarify: Calcium depletes magnesium and it’s magnesium that is needed by the body to strengthen bones, not to mention calcium causes calcification build up and hardening of the arteries while depleting the most important mineral needed - Magnesium. Magnesium softens it, Calcium hardens it. Excessive milk drinking and/or calcium supplement-taking causes eventual osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries (and other soft tissue).
With all of this in mind, and Gray's seemingly problematic reaction to formulas with high amounts of lactose; I was naturally inclined to find an alternative!
Although Grayson didn't have a good infant run with standard baby formula, I decided to try it yet again. He was now one, and I figured that maybe at this age, the maturity of his digestive system had improved. So I began researching the current toddler formula market and what my best options would be. I didn't want to go the Enfagrow (by Enfamil) or Go & Grow (by Similac) route, and I had already experienced a horrible affair with Baby's Only by NaturesOne. I saw that Holle and HIPP both offer a Toddler Formula but before outsourcing to European formula (because they can be a royal pain to obtain at times), I wanted to see if I could come across something state-side with similar or equal quality. I finally narrowed my choices down to two, and began testing away.
Option 1: HappyTot Organic Stage 3 Toddler Milk Drink
I know, I know...organic woes again! But hey! I was here to give it a fair shot. Plus I've had nothing but good experiences overall with HappyTot and HappyBaby products!
HappyTot Organic Toddler Milk Drink, a new addition to their line; is a great option for parents who want to avoid corn syrup and maltodextrin. Although it contains lactose, it does not contain taurine. It's also Non-GMO and Gluten-Free. HappyTot Organic Toddler Milk Drink is indeed cow based.
Option 2: Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula
While looking up toddler formulas, I was also seeking a non-cow and non-nut alternative and I stumbled upon goat milk. Goat milk has been discovered to be closest to human breast milk. With some quick notable facts sticking out such as:
- Goat's milk contains around ten grams of fat per eight ounces served, compared to 8-9 grams in whole cow’s milk.
- It doesn't contain agglutinin, which is found in cow's milk and is what causes cow milk's globules to cluster together, and thus making them harder to digest.
- It’s high in calcium and essential fatty acids but low in cholesterol as it contains more of the essential fatty acids linoleic and arachnodonic acids, in addition to a higher proportion of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. These are easier for intestinal enzymes to digest.
- Since goat milk protein forms a softer curd in your stomach, the protein more easily and rapidly digestible. This allows for a quicker cycle through the stomach which is a benefit for babies like @LittleMrGray who can face difficulty digesting cow's milk. Only about 2 percent of goat's milk is curd, compared to about 10 percent in cow's milk.
- Another thing to point out is that goat milk may be the answer when it comes to allergies. Most people who find themselves to be intolerant to cow's milk are actually sensitive to one of the proteins found in it, A1 casein, and lack the ability to digest A1. Today, cow's milk is one of the top allergies among children. Cow's milk nowadays contains more than 20 different allergens that cause reactions which can often be confused with simple seasonal allergies since the reactions can appear by way of hives, runny noses, stomach cramping and colic. Since It has fewer allergenic proteins it causes less inflammation.
- Goat milk has slightly lower levels of lactose (4.1 percent versus 4.7 percent in cow’s milk) which makes it much more appealing to those with lactose intolerance.
Goat’s milk casein is more similar to human milk, yet cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain similar levels of the other allergenic protein, beta lactoglobulin. Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula's current whey/casein ratio is 50:50, which makes it a suitable option for babies 12 months and older.
To be fair, I decided that I would give each formula a two-week run at minimum.
I started with the HappyTot Organic Toddler Drink. As we gradually phased it in over his Similac Pro-Sensitive, I immediately began to take notice on how Gray's stools were instantly changing.
The first week, his bowel movements became less frequent and passed more firm than normal. The second week, he was passing rock-hard stools and often was going 2-3 days without any bowel movements at all. I decided to give it an extra 3-days past the two-week trial and simply couldn't continue to see my baby so awfully constipated. Make no mistake, this is an amazing formula but it just wasn't what my baby agreed with.
It was hard because it was giving me flashbacks to his infant days when I was facing the same ordeal. I was hoping for a quick hit, and had high hopes that maybe this time around his system would react different but he simply didn't, so I stopped feeding him HappyTot. I began phasing his Similac Pro-Sensitive back in and fed him that for two weeks before trying out our next option.
After our two-week reset, I then ventured onto Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula and I slowly and cautiously began to transition in the Kabrita formula over a 9-day period (this can be achieved in as little as 5-days but I was determined not to thwart Gray's digestive system). Almost immediately, I began to see a change.
With just two 8-ounce servings per day, Gray's digestive system returned back to normal in under 3-days, and he was passing bowels with complete ease. He also appeared visibly satisfied after each serving, enjoyed the taste and gave us no spit-up or gas issues whatsoever. It was almost like a dream of sorts! I was scared that it felt too good to be true!
It's been a good 7 weeks now since we began our goat-formula venture and since he's been fully on Kabrita, we have had absolutely no issues with constipation in any way. For those with allergy concerns, currently Kabrita does not contain any coconut oil, but it is not suitable for children with a cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA).
Kabrita, which started as a formula company based out of the Netherlands has been a purveyor of high quality milk products to the Dutch market since 1897. While it was only available in the European market at one time; Kabrita has in fact been producing goat baby formula for over 75-years. A leader abroad ever since, Kabrita USA, is now offering the same superior European-quality formula produced on socially sustainable farms to North American households.
What I am also loving about Kabrita, is that just like HappyTot and the HappyFamily brands; Kabrita also has a fantastic line of goat milk yogurt pouches as well! With flavors like sweet potato/apple/cinnamon, banana/vanilla, mango/peach and mixed berry; these are a perfect way to help Gray with cow-free snacks throughout the day!
(Tummy) Happiness Found
So all in all, I am happy to report that we have found our toddler formula of choice; for now anyway since their toddler formula is only suitable for ages 12-24 months. However, Kabrita does offer a goat milk powder which can be consumed by anyone, adults included - which I might consider putting Gray on once he is two!
So, do I think you should consider putting your child on a toddler formula once they turn one? Absolutely. Do I think you should skip cow's milk? Preferably yes. Do I think you should consider a goat alternative? Most definitely with an added mention that Kabrita is the highest quality goat formula developed and produced in the entire North American market, and the only formula produced in North America that adheres to their native European quality standards.
Some Good News for You
When I come across something good, I always feel like the world needs to know and my discovery with Kabrita is no different. So I'm very happy to announce that I have partnered with Kabrita to offer my readers a generous 10% off any Kabrita purchase. All you have to do is visit their site by clicking this link, and use the promo code GIMMEKABRITA. Additionally, if you visit their site by clicking here, you'll come across a promotion valid for first time buyers where you can try out a 14-ounce can of Kabrita along with two bonus discount coupons good towards formula and yogurt (a $25 value), and all you have to pay is for shipping and handling! Considering the cost of formula in general - you can't really lose with this one!
So give it a try and let me know your thoughts. As for me, I will be updating you guys on how Gray's toddler formula venture continues to go! For those reaching this point with their brand new toddlers, I look forward to hearing your feedback on toddler calcium nutrition and preferred options! After all, the important thing is that your toddler thrives, in great health!
Till next time,