Finding Unconventional Wisdom When We Need it Most

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Today I want to share a more personal story. My hope is that some of you will read it and recieve the information, understanding, connection, or encouragement you need. Or maybe there is someone you know of that will benefit from hearing about my experience. I also want to share with you because I talk a lot about food and eating in a more traditional (yet unconventional) way, and I want to point you in the direction of where I am coming from, especially if you have health challenges or are concerned about your family’s health and nutrition. At the end of the post, I will share some great resources for learning more about traditional foods and other health-related information that you will not find in conventional arenas.

All my life, I had anticipated becoming a mother. I learned very early that womens’ bodies are incredible machines, made to grow humans and sustain them. My mom practiced midwifery, and taught childbirth classes, and was an outspoken advocate for breastfeeding. I heard all of the exasperated remarks she made about women who did not breastfeed, and all of the wonderful reasons to do it– there is nothing more natural, more practical, more perfect than the human breast for feeding babies. I knew what I would do when I had babies– of course I would breastfeed! I never doubted it for a moment. And, I am ashamed to say, I judged the women around me who opted out of breastfeeding and used commercially-made formula instead. I simply couldnt’ understand that choice.

Photo Credit: Nate Warner

And then, I had a baby.
We did not have an easy pregnancy, and we especially did not have an easy birth experience. Everything was infinitely more difficult than I had ever imagined it could be. Including breastfeeding. I nursed my baby every hour, all day, and sometimes all night. She cried all the time, and was always ravenous. I had been reading up for years on health and birth, and how to do everything. I had interpreted for the nursing consultations run by the OTs at the hospital I worked at. I knew what to do, and I tried everything. My baby was not thriving. At two months, Amelia was not gaining weight like she should, and my pediatrician was concerned about her brain development… Because she was malnourished. I couldn’t believe it! How could this be happening?

My doctor wanted me to give Amelia formula, “just to supplement.”  I knew that I had to do something, but I did not want to use that formula. I looked at the can he handed me, and the first ingredient listed was 42% corn syrup solids. I am sure many women have been in my situation, and felt that they had no choice, and if a baby is not thriving, they have to find something to feed the child, and formula is there. But I was fortunate, in that I had another option. My mom had given me a copy of Nourishing Traditions a couple of years before– it was one of the most unconventional cookbooks I’d ever seen. In addition to weird recipes for raw meat dishes and various preparations of offal, there were recipes for baby formula in the back! There was a whole section on feeding babies, which I pretty much memorized during Amelia’s first year. The author, Sally Fallon, described how she had been unable to breastfeed her children, despite excellent nutrition and trying everything just as I had. Not only was there another option there for me, but there was a critical piece of information that I needed– that it wasn’t my fault, and that this was a problem for other women who cared as much as I did about breastfeeding, too.

I prepared the recipe for baby formula, which called for about 15 different ingredients, and gave it to Amelia in a bottle. She sucked it down ravenously, right away. Even though it was a hassle, I started preparing the formula for her every day, and she quickly weaned herself, taking that exclusively after two weeks. She started gaining weight again, and was able to go much longer between feedings, and her development picked up. I was so thankful to have found that recipe! I have followed many of the Nourishing Traditions principles in feeding my daughter since then, and I have to say– she has never had an ear infection, she has never thrown up since her baby days, she rarely gets sick (and almost never did as a baby) and she has a great appetite for all kinds of food. There is no way for me to know for sure if things would be different if I had just given her the regular commercial formula at two months, but I sincerely believe so. (As a side note, Sally Fallon Morell has written a second book, dedicated to the care of babies and children– check it out here.)

I often wonder what I would have done if I didn’t have that unconventional wisdom available to me. What if I didn’t know that I had other options?  I have spent a lot of time researching and learning about health and nutrition in as many ways as I can. I don’t believe that everything I am told by doctors and other mainstream sources is true, and I know that I am ultimately responsible for my own health and that of my family. So I believe it’s really important for me to investigate, to listen, to search for the information. I think a lot of what I consider unconventional wisdom is actually just traditional knowledge that we have lost over the years, in favor of trends and technology. Many of the “discoveries” we are making today are actually just a matter of re-learning what our great, great grandparents already knew.

Collectively, our health is in crisis right now. It is so sad to see how many people are dealing with illness, and how early these problems are starting in our children. I think the answers are out there, but not always in the easiest places to find them. I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage you to do some research, look outside the box, and find ways to keep your family healthy that work for you.

Has there been a time in your life when you really needed outside-the-box answers? Where did you find them?

Finding Unconventional Wisdom When We Need it Most

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28 Responses to Finding Unconventional Wisdom When We Need it Most

  1. Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I spent 18 months and one miscarriage trying to get pregnant with our first child. My husband and I had all the tests…nothing was wrong, at least not that a doctor could find. I really didn’t want to try fertility treatments. After the miscarriage, I tried acupuncture. I was pregnant in 3 weeks and carried to term a beautiful baby girl. I agree that sometimes it’s best to look to alternatives…although I did formula feed my daughter when nursing didn’t work. 🙂 Thank you for posting your story. It’s good to know there is an alternative to formula if necessary.

    • Ariana Mullins March 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      I am so sorry to hear about your miscarriage and struggle with conception. I actually have a very similar story, and it was acupuncture that I believe helped us to conceive, as well. So glad for your success story, thank you for sharing!

  2. Rocio March 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Oh my goodness! Amelia looks like a porcelain baby doll in that first picture! Gorgeous pictures!

    You bring up so many good points in your post, especially the challenges of breastfeeding. So many women I know have caved to the pressures and conveniences of formula, thinking there was no alternative. After your insight and experience with that information, I’ll start referring them to the Nourishing Traditions chapter from now on. Your post reminded me of the boycott against Nestle baby formula use in developing countries, an issue that must not be forgotten. Thank you for posting this!

  3. Ariana Mullins March 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Rocio, Sally Fallon Morell has also written a new book, dedicated to feeding babies and children. Here’s the amazon link:, so you may want to keep that in your resource library, as well. There is a whole other talk at the Healthy Life Summit, given by Sarah Pope about breast milk quality and alternatives for moms who need them. There is so much more out there now than when I had Amelia almost 7 years ago, and I am so excited that mamas have more options. Thanks for helping to spread the word and these valuable resources!

  4. March 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    This is such a sweet and wonderful story that, to me, testifies to God’s goodness. I find myself in the position of helping a soon-to-be-new mother who is unwilling to breastfeed to make her own formula and we will be using the Nourishing Traditions recipe. AND, I’ll be listening intently to the Summit speakers!

    • Ariana Mullins March 13, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      I’m so glad that you will be able to help this mom! I had never known anyone who had made it, and luckily I am pretty game to try all sorts of things. But I know it could be really daunting for a mom without the right kind of support. Good for you!

  5. ToUgH CoOkiE March 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this, Ariana. I can quite relate to this when I had the twins. To breastfeeding, at least. I had so much trouble when I had them. They were born premature and were put in separate incubators and had quite a list of complications. One twin had a “hole in her heart that did not close yet” and turned blue around the lips and the other twin had stomach problems. I was not allowed to touch them for several days after they were born so breastfeeding was out of the question. I pumped my milk into feeding bottles so they would have some at least. To make matters worse my breast milk was scarce and I had to feed 2 tiny mouths. They were big babies for twins, one was 5.3lbs and the other 5.8lbs, but they were losing weight rapidly so they were given the formula much to my dismay. ( I breastfed my boys for 2 years! ) I asked the doctor if there was another option and the only thing she told me was that it was either the formula or the breastmilk from another woman which they have in stock in the freezer. Can you guess what my choice was? I don’t know…but to me, the latter just creeped me out.

    • Ariana Mullins March 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Wow, that sounds SO stressful! Especially with the health complications and not being able to hold them. That just have been so heartbreaking. I am so glad they both came through so well. I also wish that these alternative formulas were taught in medical settings like this, where moms need the support and options the most. Amelia was hypoglycemic, and my milk had not come in yet after she was born, so we also had to give her formula. I don’t know if that has something to do with her current food allergies, but there were a lot of things that went wrong in that birth scenario, and so it’s complicated. I just hope that more people can learn about the unconventional options that are out there! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  6. ShackelMom March 12, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    I am just so glad that I had read Nourishing Traditions too, and knew that some women could not breastfeed (in spite of all I had heard from the La Leche League), and was able to be supportive and sympathetic with your situation! Five years earlier and I would not have known! I have been nothing but proud of how you have fed your daughter!! And it was really rough at the beginning.

    • Ariana Mullins March 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Yes! I’m glad, too. You were very, very supportive, and you really made me feel better about not being able to breastfeed. Thank you!!

  7. Jessica March 13, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Thank you for sharing. I was not able to breastfeed. I had trouble from the start, and starting supplementing with commercial formula from the beginning. I kept telling myself that it was just until my milk came in, or if I just tried this food or that supplement that I magically start producing enough milk to feed my baby. Around week 9, after a heart to heart with yet another lactation consultant, I came to terms with the idea that it wasn’t going to happen, and killing myself to try and make it work, wasn’t good for me or the baby. I searched online for an alternative to commercial formula, and found the recipe for the raw milk formula. I was able to find the kit from Radiant Life Company, which made the process easier. The recipe itself seems pretty daunting at first, but I was willing to try anything that would be healthier and safer than commercial formula. Now, my baby is 13 weeks and doing so well. I have the recipe memorized by this point, and it only takes a few minutes each day to prepare. While I still regret that I couldn’t breast feed, being able to give her home made formula has helped alleviate a lot of the guilt that I was holding onto. I am so thankful that I was able to find a solution that worked for us.

    • Ariana Mullins March 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

      Thank you for telling your story, Jessica. I am so glad that you had the support you needed, in order to find about the alternative formula. Like you, the process for making it was really a little overwhelming at first, but my husband and I quickly memorized it, and it just became part of our daily routine. The other thing that I didn’t mention is that my daughter did not sleep well at all, and so I was extremely sleep deprived. Having to switch to the bottle was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to have some time to rest, while my husband fed her instead of me.

      I am really glad to hear that you found the solution that you needed, and that you and your baby are doing well!

  8. Anonymous March 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I really didn’t think that anyone else went through simiar things. I felt like an island and a failure when my milk didn’t properly come in. La Leche league told me I wouldn’t feed my baby formula if I actually loved him( truly, their exact words)and when my baby ended up in the NICU on day 3 of life for malnutrition, the nurses and doctors looked at me like a monster for not jumping to formula immediately. The guilt and judgement that comes from all directions is horrifying. Both of my children thrived on formula have high IQ’s, etc. My own relatives said awful things to me like my children would have died a century earlier and that breast milk should be the only option- I must not have tried hard enough. I wish that I had known anything about a natural recipe then since both of my children suffer from food allergies. Maybe we could have prevented them. We’ll never know. I hope so much that someone is spared that nightmare because you’re posting information that is so foreign to the mainstream. Thank you for sharing it. I’m sorry that you had trouble too. As awful as it was I wish i had been an island and the only one to endure it!
    Gwen Belanger

    • Lauren March 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      Gwen, as sorry as I am to hear of your troubles, I am equally angered that any health professional would accuse you of malnourishing a 3 DAY OLD child with “faulty” breastmilk – that’s when most women’s milk first comes in, for heaven’s sake!
      Ariana, your story will help and reassure many people. Having the history and willingness to experiment that you do was a great asset. Misinformation and scare tactics from supposed perinatal professionals towards new and uncertain parents is one of my pet peeves.

    • Ariana Mullins March 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      Gwen, that is so awful, and I am really so sorry that you were treated that way. I know firsthand that nothing cuts deeper to the heart of a woman than criticism about how she is mothering her child. And that women who have just given birth are so vulnerable and raw. I agree with Lauren that it’s ridiculous to be accused of anything at Day 3. I don’t think my milk even came in until then.

      I know what you mean about guilt and judgement. I have been on both sides– judging the women who made choices I didn’t understand, and being judged for my own. Why do we do that? It has definitely made my confront my own patterns in that regard. Thank you for sharing your story, and again– I am just so sorry that happened to you! Your kids will be just fine– they have a loving mom who cares about them and their health.

  9. Crystal March 14, 2013 at 1:31 am #

    This is an answer to prayer. I was just sharing with my husband that I feel like I am losing everything I have learned about food and I am slipping back into bad habits because they seem easier. Thank you so much for sharing your story and this info. I will be tuning in.



    • Ariana Mullins March 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      So glad that you found the resource here that you were praying for, Crystal! I know that the summit is going to be SO helpful and exciting– the line-up is really unbelievable!

  10. IDLaura March 15, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    My mother nursed all 7 of us kids. So, when my son was born in 1975, I was in the Air Force and they really pushed me to put him on formula. Are you kidding me?? If my mother could do it, I surely could. The only thing the doc told me was to watch what I ate as it would go thru the milk into baby. So I drank plenty of liquids, ate good food and he was wanting to nurse every 2 hrs around the clock, crying in between. I can see how easy to shake a baby. At a month old, I woke one morning with a 105 temp, went to the base hospital and got told I had mastitis. The took a sample from each side, said I had to dry up & put him on formula. I was crushed! Got a shot, went thru a great deal of pain, swelling up to my collarbone and into my armpits. The nurse told me to wear a form fitting bra and I would be fine. My m-i-l was visiting and said doctors were idiots, used a hot towel across my breasts & then wrapped a towel as tight as she could get it. Boy! what a relief that was! The next week, the labs came back…no mastitis. I was pissed!

    In 1978, the same base hospital had a new doctor from Chicago who believed in breastfeeding and my daughter got a good start. After 3 months, I weaned her, it was just too much stress learning a new career, moving cross country and having root canals 😛 etc. In fact, I woke up one morning and had no milk. The base hosp said I could make her nurse & my milk would probably come back in, but it was good.

    Now that I raise dairy goats, I deal with mastitis on occasion. My vet makes me milk once an hour or leave the kid on the doe to nurse. That helps to clear up most mastitis! I DON’T milk once an hour! It doesn’t make the kids sick and they grow very well.

    I have a couple ladies that have had issues with not enough milk and they see naturopathic or maybe it’s homeopathic doctors who recommend unpasteurized (REAL) goat milk. They have to supplement, I think it’s iron, but these little boys are healthy, rosy cheeked, satisfied babies. Pediatricians scare you with all kinds of horror tales, but you can go to the CDC & see for yourself. There has been less deaths to raw milk drinking than there is to pasteurized milk. I think there are 38 states that allow sales of unpasteurized milk. You can find info to the states at the Weston A Price It’s not cheap, but it sure will save you problems in the long run!

    • Ariana Mullins March 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      Yes IDLaura, we are big fans of Weston A Price and raw milk. We were living in California the first year after I had my baby, so we were able to get raw milk to use in her formula. It was very, very expensive, but worth it. You are absolutely right about it being very safe, and it’s such a shame that there is so much misinformation being spread by doctors. It makes vulnerable moms so scared to do things that maybe their instincts are telling them…
      Thank you for sharing your story here!

  11. Elizabeth March 17, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    I just found your blog, and I’m so excited! 🙂 I can’t wait to look around. Looks like you have a lovely life in the UK! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story. Low milk supply (or no milk!) and the challenges that come with it are so overwhelming! I’m glad you found information and support that was helpful for you so there is a “happy ending” to your story. 🙂 I’m not sure if this is the case in the UK, but another option is donor milk (access to many of the ingredients that Sally’s formula calls for can be hard to come by in many states). In my area, we are fortunate that there is a local milk bank!

    Also, sometimes if a low milk supply is detected early, it is possible to build/rebuild your supply or find a middle way with supplementation with a high-quality formula or donor milk, but still having baby at the breast as much as possible. A great resource for someone trying to do some detective work about their supply issues that is the book “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk”.

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Hi Elizabeth, glad you found me! 🙂 When I had my baby, the idea of breastmilk banks were brand new in my area, and were never presented as an option. I have been glad to hear from many people that they are being used so much now! I will keep my eye out for the book you mentioned, I’d love to keep it as a resource for others.

  12. Meghan @ Whole Natural Life March 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Wonderful post, Ariana. I’m 17 weeks pregnant so have been thinking about these things a lot lately. I think I might order the ingredients for the WAPF formula before having my baby so I’ll have most things on hand just in case, as I really REALLY don’t want to use commercial formula. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Congratulations, Meghan!! It is so nice to hear about moms who are finding this information *before* they need it, so they will not be in a total crisis if milk supply is a huge problem. I think it’s wise to have the ingredients on hand. And if you don’t end up needing them, you can pass them on to someone who does, making their transitions SO much easier!

  13. Heather May March 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    What a touching story. I have 5 children and all of them were bottle fed. The first 3 because I was a full time working mother in an industry where business dictated breaks…not leaks – then I tried breast feeding #4. I wanted to try being more natural but failed. I couldn’t produce enough milk and I tried EVERYTHING. I took fenugreek, mothers milk supplements, drank extra fluids, tried specials foods and diets and still nothing. There was noting more stressful than not knowing how much the baby was getting. At just a few weeks, I had to start supplementing with formula and then tried to still get a bottle or two out a day of breast milk. With number 5..I used an organic formula that I bought at the health food store – I wish I would have seen your post before. I know some people knock “bottle moms” but honestly the comfort of knowing that m baby was getting food and that it had what he needed was much more natural to me than stress and the crazy stuff I was willing to try to make more milk!! I do mean crazy! I am hosting today at my site – stop by if you can!

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Thank you for sharing your story, Heather May. I also did all of the things you listed, and was eating mostly a Weston A. Price type diet at the time… People need to SUPPORT moms, not make judgements about how they are mothering. I think sharing these stories helps others to understand that it’s not always just what it looks like to them!

  14. Anonymous May 14, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    thanks for share....

  15. Anonymous July 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I hope you aren’t recommending raw and Unpaturized goats milk for infants? That would be bordering on child endangerement. Sure, you can fluff off the risks, but I know a TEN year old, previously perfectly healthy girl who nowhas only one kidney and reduced mobility / disabilities from raw milk. This happened at a family friend’s farm… they almost lost the farm, the little girl almost lost her LIFE. I would never, EVER advocate raw and unpasturized milk for infants. A dangerous recommendation. Readers beware.

  16. monika January 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I think the judgement of mothers in relation to breastfeeding is very damaging, and hope that this will pass out of our culture. Generations of children have been formula fed (it became popular in the ’30s), and have grown up to be healthy adults. While I breastfed my own children (it was convenient as I was on maternity leave for over a year each time), I recognize that studies all show that the benefits of breast milk over formula are small and not long-lasting — if this were more well-known, then there would be less judgement I think.

    Ariana, I absolutely share your concern over finding corn syrup in a brand of commercial formula, but am sure that there are many readily available brands without corn syrup.

    Even though I consume raw milk products (i.e., raw milk cheeses), I am afraid though that in all good conscience I really have to speak out against Sally Fallon’s raw milk baby formula recipes.

    It is one thing for me, an adult with a fully developed immune system, to make the decision for myself to consume raw milk cheeses, but it is quite another to feed raw milk to an infant with an immature immune system.

    The dangers of raw milk consumption are well documented and well known over time; this is why pasteurization was such a breakthrough. In developing countries, when cow or goat milk is used for babies, it is first boiled in order to kill any possible contaminants, because it is well known that it can make a child very sick (possibly leading to lifelong kidney problems) or even kill them.

    Here in Canada, we have a very small artisanal raw milk cheese industry, but this fall, we had 1 death and many serious illnesses caused by contaminated raw milk cheese. It is a very real risk.

    Sally Fallon misuses epidemiological information to persuade people about the safety of raw milk. I know that she sounds convincing, but please read this article, which is backed up by solid research. The key of course, is to be able to understand what constitutes “solid research”, and what makes other research flawed. This takes an actual university science level education, and so there needs to be greater skepticism of claims made by those who have no such background. For example, while babies may gain weight on her formula recipe and look healthy, who is checking to see if the recipe (or the individual batch) contains the proper nutrients and micronutrients for development? For example, what is the taureen level of her formula? Too low, and it may not lead to optimal vision. And that is just one of the things which need to be monitored. The great value of commercial formulas is that they are tested and checked, and cannot be sold if they do not meet government guidelines. Since the guidelines constitute a minimum level, you are free as a parent to choose a formula which you feel exceeds this minimum level (and yet is still certified as safe).

    Anyways, please consider the information in this article about raw milk:

    So, I have to strongly caution readers of this post to consider the dangers of giving raw milk to children (and infants); it is playing Russian roulette with your child’s health. They may well be unharmed, or they may become very sick — a very real risk which is impossible to predict.

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