Just over 11 months ago my life changed forever. As a breast cancer survivor who underwent 6 years of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, monoclonal antibodies and hormone treatment, I’d resigned myself to that fact that my chance of having children was less than 4%. As a fiercely independent traveler, I was ok with that (sort of…), diverting my attention to work and celebrating the fact that with no ties, I could go to bed at 3am, attend any social event or fly overseas at a moments notice.
Then I found I was pregnant. The most unexpected, amazing, literally mind-blowing event of my entire life. I become “that” pregnant woman, giving up soft cheeses, beef jerky, champagne, ibuprofen and horse-riding overnight and doing absolutely everything I could to nourish the baby growing inside me. In January my baby girl was born, and (to quote my sister-in-law) every single day since then has been like waking up on Christmas morning. I could never have wished for such a beautiful and perfect gift.
When I saw this PETA video starring Emily Deschanel I absolutely sympathized with her opening statement – nothing compares to the joy of raising my child. Yet, as the video progressed and Ms Deschanel described the atrocities that allegedly occur on dairy farms, accompanied by emotive video footage, I became more and more concerned. At the end of the clip Ms Deschanel suggested that the only way forwards was to end the cruelty on factory farms and go vegan. That’s when I almost lost it.
I’ve always supported the dairy industry – I think I may actually be clinically addicted to cheese and my yogurt consumption could be considered an extreme sport; but now I have an even better reason to celebrate dairy farmers – they ensure that I have a happy, healthy baby girl.
There’s no doubt that the “breast is best” slogan is right – babies are mammals, they thrive on mammalian milk – indeed milk is the most highly digestible food available for their little stomachs. However, because of my cancer treatment, I can’t produce enough milk to nourish my baby; so she’s fed both breast-milk and formula. Until now, I’d never thought about where formula comes from – I’d rather assumed it was a synthetic mix of amino acids produced in a test-tube. In reality, it’s a combination of nonfat cows’ milk*, lactose, and whey protein concentrate (both of the latter ingredients also from cows’ milk); combined with other ingredients to provide the energy, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that my little girl needs to grow and be healthy.
I would do anything for my little girl – I can’t even imagine what it would be like to try and care for her if formula didn’t exist and I could only provide her with half the nutrients she needed through breast-feeding. Alarmingly, the third result on Google for “vegan baby formula” is a recipe for home-made formula based on coconut water and raw almonds. The mind would boggle if I weren’t just terribly worried that somewhere, a mother thinks that this is the right choice for her child. To raise a baby as vegan because of parental ideology would seem irresponsible, if not dangerous – after all, surely breast-feeding is non-vegan?
So THANK YOU dairy farmers, for the nutrients that I get from my diet and can pass on to my baby, and for the milk that goes into formula to help her grow and thrive. You guys are the best!
*Soy-based formulas are also available for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk, I’m lucky that my little girl thrives on dairy products!
Thanks to @DairyCarrie and @AgProudRyan for showing me the PETA video, and to @JodiOleen for reminding me that I’d intended to blog about it.
So glad to see this post! I too struggled with feeding my baby. I am/was a “breast is best” kind of person but when I couldn’t feed my baby (I worked with 3 different lactation specialist), I had to look at formula. I am so very thankful to the dairy farmers, cows, researchers and even large companies that help me feed my baby. Excellent post my friend!
Thank you Jodi! Yes, I wish I could exclusively breast-feed, but alas, it wasn’t to be. We are so lucky to have alternatives!
That was a very thoughtful piece you wrote. I have known many dairy farmers (up close) in the past 40 years and i have no idea what kind of atrocities that actress was talking about.
I come from a long line of farm and cattle ranchers and i don’t know any other way to live. We are also hunters and i am very appreciative for what has been given up in part of these animals for my family’s consumption and sustenance.
I have many cousins who have chosen to become Vegans. I respect the fact they have chosen that life, but it is not the best for the body to be a 100% Vegan. I have talked to many Dr.’s who treat vegans for one reason or another and they find many issues. I won’t go into them here, but still, to each his own.
I hope you and your little “angel” are doing well.
Thanks Diane. I completely agree – to each his own in terms of diet, but I think we (as parents) have a responsibility to make sure our children are fed in the best possible way until they can make that choice for themselves. We are doing wonderfully – many thanks for your kind words.
Thanks so much for these words. Breast feeding was very important to me with both my girls, and with my first, it worked great! However, with my second, I had to stop. I was heart broken. I can’t imagine going through this without the reassurance that she will be fine on formula. I am so grateful for it.
This is a hard subject. Thanks for tackling it.
Thanks Janeal. We hear so much about “breast is best” that I think the other side of the story gets forgotten. Always happy to blog! 🙂
Breast feeding didn’t work out for me and my little munchkin, but based on all the ‘she’s so big’ comments I’d say she’s thriving on formula. I’ve shared your blog post so others can thank a dairy farmer too!
Awesome, thanks Paula!
You rock…as always. And I couldn’t agree with you more. With my youngest son, had I continued to exclusively breastfeed him, I would have likely watched him slowly die. It’s one of the reasons that I’m such a strong advocate for technology. The advances in medicine AND our food system led us to a milestone that I never thought was possible…and science said was improbable…his 5th birthday.
Thank you for such a great post. And may you continue to be blessed!
Thanks Val! It’s something I feel pretty strongly about too 🙂 My little girl was bright yellow with jaundice till we worked out the supply issue. Technology and dairy farmers are so important!!
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