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Cultivating Immunity in your Non-Nursing or Weaning Child

As featured in Issue 7 of HPM, written by Dr Jessica Payne.

As holistic-minded parents we don’t consider nursing a choice, do we? Yes, we’ve heard it can be painful, challenging, and frustrating at times. But we know if we stick to our guns, get the right support, and never give up we will persevere.

For most of us, this is reality. Nursing may not be as easy as we anticipated, but mother and baby eventually fall into sync and nurse happily ever after.

But what about those who, despite their best intentions and exhaustive efforts, cannot nurse exclusively—or even at all?

It’s a holistic mother’s worst nightmare.

Traumatic births, family emergencies, severe postpartum depression, mother returning to work and not responding to a pump, an early weaner, serious illness, premature births, adoption, lack of education and support are all reasons a holistically-minded mama may not be able to breastfeed as she intended.

Does this sound like you or someone you love? If so, this article is for you.

As a holistic chiropractor, licensed drug-free practitioner, and momma, I have assisted countless parents in cultivating strong, healthy immunity in nursing, non-nursing, and weaning children.

I know how difficult it is to surrender the breast to a bottle when you are fundamentally opposed to it. Aside from dealing with everyone’s well-meaning advice, you also experience feelings of crushing disappointment, guilt, inadequacy, anger, and defeat.

There is also a lack of open conversation about these challenges in the holistic parenting community, so it can be hard to find support.

I am here to officially open the conversation and tell you that you are not alone. All is not lost, and you still can provide your baby with superior nutrition and a rock solid start.

So let’s say good-bye to self-defeating emotions, dust ourselves off, become fully present, and get started cultivating immunity in your perfect little being.

Why real food is so important to our babies’ immunity

It is well known that 70-80% of our immunity resides in our digestive tracts. A strong, healthy gut is essential to immune function.

All babies are born with immature digestive systems that, when given the right nutrition, will mature enough to digest solids around 6 months of age.

Their immature guts are porous, lack plentiful digestive enzymes, and are designed to “mature” on easily-digestible, nutrient-dense, high-fat, enzyme and probiotic-rich breast milk.

When breast milk is not available or supplementation is required, these babies run a high risk of developing leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome occurs when undesirable, indigestible particles (such as high fructose corn syrup and synthetic, hexane-derived vitamins found in commercial formula) damage the weak gut lining and pass into the bloodstream.

When the gut is continuously bombarded with indigestible food, the immune system becomes taxed, and susceptibility to immune and auto-immune challenges increases significantly.

It is also important to note, the digestive system is a physical and energetic system affected by the energy of food and environment.

This is why it is imperative that bottle-fed babies are given REAL food in the form of unprocessed, raw, organic, non-GMO, preferably homemade formulas and foods, individualized to meet their dietary needs.

The best real food options for non-nursing newborns/infants or those requiring supplementation

Babies aged 0-6 months require a liquid diet.

Holistic pediatrician Dr. Catherine Rupp, has this to say on choosing the best formula:

“When breastfeeding is not possible, there are several options. Feeding pumped breast milk is an option many mothers choose whose infants have latch issues that cannot be overcome.

There are also times when, in spite of her best efforts, the mother is unable to produce an adequate supply of milk, and she has to look for alternatives. Homemade formula, is certainly an option, ideally made from raw cow’s milk or raw goat’s milk.”

To source quality raw milk in your state, visit or

I know how difficult it is to surrender the breast to a bottle when you are fundamentally opposed to it. Aside from dealing with everyone’s well-meaning advice, you also experience feelings of crushing disappointment, guilt, inadequacy, anger, and defeat.

Homemade Raw Cow’s Milk Baby Formula

Makes 36 ounces

If the only choice available is commercial milk, choose whole milk, preferably organic and unhomogenized, and culture it with a piima or kefir culture to restore enzymes.


2 cups whole raw cow’s milk, preferably from pasture-fed cows

1/4 cup homemade liquid whey Note: Do NOT use powdered whey or whey from making cheese (which will cause the formula to curdle). Use only homemade whey made from yoghurt, kefir or separated raw milk.

4 tablespoons lactose

1/4 teaspoon bifidobacterium infantis

2 or more tablespoons good quality cream (preferably not ultrapasteurized), more if you are using milk from Holstein cows

1/2 teaspoon unflavored high-vitamin or high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil or 1 teaspoon regular cod liver oil

1/4 teaspoon high-vitamin butter oil (optional)

1 teaspoon expeller-expressed sunflower oil

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons Frontier brand nutritional yeast flakes

2 teaspoons gelatin

1-7/8 cups filtered water

1/4 teaspoon acerola powder


  1. Put 2 cups filtered water into a pyrex measuring pitcher and remove 2 tablespoons (that will give you 1-7/8 cups water).
  2. Pour about half of the water into a pan and place on a medium flame.
  3. Add the gelatin and lactose to the pan and let dissolve, stirring occasionally.
  4. When the gelatin and lactose are dissolved, remove from heat and add the remaining water to cool the mixture.
  5. Stir in the coconut oil and optional high-vitamin butter oil and stir until melted.
  6. Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients into a blender.
  7. Add the water mixture and blend about three seconds.
  8. Place in glass bottles or a glass jar and refrigerate.
  9. Before giving to baby, warm bottles by placing in hot water or a bottle warmer. NEVER warm bottles in a microwave oven.

Variation: Raw Goat’s Milk Formula

Although goat milk is rich in fat, it must be used with caution in infant feeding as it lacks folic acid and is low in vitamin B12, both of which are essential to the growth and development of the infant.

Inclusion of nutritional yeast to provide folic acid is essential. To compensate for low levels of vitamin B12, if preparing the Cow’s Milk-Based Formula (above) with goat’s milk, add 2 teaspoons organic raw chicken liver, frozen for 14 days, finely grated to the batch of formula.

For ingredient resources and further instruction, visit:

(Recipes reprinted with permission from the Weston A. Price Foundation)

For a coconut milk formula recipe, please visit:

How do I choose the best type of milk for my baby?

This is a KEY factor in successfully cultivating immunity in a formula fed child.

Some children respond well to cow’s milk, while others require milk alternatives.

Dr. Rupp has extensive experience working with allergies in babies, had this to add:

“Food allergies and sensitivities certainly can and do run in families, in part because of genetics but also because a mother’s gut flora is inherited by the newborn during passage through the birth canal.

Many children who are allergic to milk are actually allergic to the altered milk proteins that occur during pasteurization and can often tolerate raw milk obtained from healthy, pasture-fed cows or goats without any problem.

Soy is not recommended for good reason. Soy is a highly allergenic food loaded with phyto-estrogens (which disrupt baby’s developing endocrine system), anti-nutrients, and non-organic soy is likely genetically modified.

If you are unsure how to spot milk sensitivities, all you have to do is watch your baby. If they ingest an allergen, their digestive system will become inflamed, and the body will try to “put out the fire” by creating mucous.

Chronic runny noses and congestion are NOT normal and are key indicators of food allergies or sensitivities.

We will have more on food allergies coming up in the section on weaning toddlers.

What to do if your milk supply wanes or your baby weans early

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all babies nurse for at least 1 year. Though 1 year is a commendable start, I advise nursing to at least 2 years of age or until the child weans naturally.

If your milk supply cannot keep up, or your baby chooses to wean early you do have options.

In addition to working with a qualified practitioner to increase supply, you may give your baby homemade formula (listed above), and add age-appropriate, immune-supportive solids.

The ideal time to start solids is when the digestive tract matures, around 6-7 months. Though I truly believe a mother’s intuition is her best guide in deciding when to start solids.

Optimal foods for babies and children include a balance of cooked foods made up of whole fresh vegetables, pasture-raised meats such as poultry and beef, wild-caught small fish, raw, cultured dairy, fruits, and pure water.

It is crucial babies start on vegetables, for both their flavor and superior nutritional value.

Despite popular opinion, babies have no need for any type of grains this early in their development. In fact, grains can be harmful. This is due to high levels of phytic acid—an anti-nutrient that can weaken an already sensitive digestive system.

First foods that cultivate strong immunity and nourish a healthy digestive system include:

Lightly steamed, pureed vegetables (choose organic, non-GMO).

Homemade bone broths. The mild flavor of chicken is usually a favorite among babies. Add to purees, or give as a soup or beverage (choose bones from pasture-raised, organic animals).

Cultured foods such as homemade, raw, full-fat, plain yogurt, kefir, (choose milk from pasture-raised, organic animals) and cultured vegetables.

Starting slow and introducing a new food every seven days will help you identify any food sensitivities early.

A good rule of thumb is to keep portions the size of an ice cube.

Nourishing the weaning (picky) toddler

Before you label your toddler “picky”, consider this information on allergies from Dr. Rupp:

“Breastfeeding infants often don’t display allergies or sensitivities until weaned because of the protective effects from the breast milk itself.

Signs of food intolerance and/or allergies can include redness around the mouth, irritability and fussiness, abdominal bloating and gas, constipation or diarrhea, blood and mucous in the stools, reflux, chronic nasal or chest congestion, recurrent infections, wheezing, hives, and chronic skin rashes like eczema.”

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, their pickiness could be a self-preservation attempt to avoid allergenic foods.

However, toddlers will be toddlers! And often, they simply MUST exercise their control over eating, sleeping, and potty training. This often translates to battles over food.

My best advice to parents is to “compromise” by offering a variety of nutrient-dense foods, keeping a regular meal rhythm, and thinking outside the box.

I regularly test out different types of foods and recipes with my daughter because I never know what she will like. I try raw food recipes, cutting foods into fun shapes, vegetarian meals, smoothies, and foods from around the globe (believe it or not, chicken coconut soup is always a hit).

Also, often a simple change of pace like taking lunch outside, or using a special dish or new feeding utensil will make a child forget their objections.

We can’t force our toddlers to make the best choices, but we can keep their options healthy, fun, and adventurous.

I hope this article has helped inspire and awaken your innate intuition about nurturing and nourishing your baby. Even when we feel our bodies have failed us and our experts don’t have the answers, we can trust nature to provide the right tools for the healthy proliferation of life.

Additional Reading and Resources:

  • Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD
  • GAPS Guide by Baden Lashkov
  • ·Healing Our Children: Because Your New Baby Matters! by Rami Nagel
  • Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin
  • The Truth about Food by Gillian Drake
  • What to Eat by Marion Nestle

Dr. Jackie Gustafson

is a holistic chiropractor, licensed drug-free practitioner, and proud mother of securely attached, 2 ½ year old Veyda. On her blog,, Dr. Jackie Gustafson provides parents with family-friendly health tips, nutrition guidance, recipes, aromatherapy tutorials, essential oils, and an accepting community of like-minded families dedicated to natural living. Dr. Jackie Gustafson and her husband, Dr. Jeremy (also a chiropractor) run a successful, integrative family practice in Carmel Indiana.
Author: Dawn Porter
Dawn Porter is Owner, Editor, and Publisher of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Dawn Porter is married to her soulmate and together they parent six delightfully vibrant children in the Colorado Rockies. She has a background in sociology and philosophy, and has enjoyed working as a birth doula and breastfeeding counselor for over a decade. She has founded and led several women’s groups, on a spectrum of communities and interests. Dawn Porter is an advocate for authentic, intuitive parenting. She considers herself a cheerleader of her six life learners. She is passionate about holistic parenting, and loves sharing inspiration with like minded people across the globe.