Okay, that was too easy and a bit of a cop out, so allow me to further explain my answer backed with some research. Also, let me preface this by stating that I did not come up with the idea for this article out of the blue. There’s no mommy groups in my area (that I know of) that have started a trend of making homemade formulas using raw milk, or anything of the like, it is (of course) none other than a Food Babe initiative. This week blogger Vani Hari, who uses the moniker “Food Babe”, urged her readers to stay away from conventional formulas, to purchase only specific brands of organic formulas (which usually accompany a price mark up of at least 50% per ounce) or alternately to make their own homemade formula using raw milk. My semi-educated and gut instinct answer was the first word in this article: no.
What is Raw Milk and Why Isn’t it Sold Anymore?
Raw milk is milk that is not pasteurized (heated up hot enough and long enough to kill harmful bacteria) or homogenized. In Canada, it has been mandatory to pasteurize milk since 1991 per Health Canada and thus it is illegal throughout Canada (federally and provincially) to sell raw milk.
The reason why raw milk is illegal is because raw milk can contain bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria which can cause food poisoning. Most patients recover from the infections, but in a small portion of people (especially those most susceptible: children, the elderly and immunocompromised people) will have life-threatening infections that can cause death. These infections have the potential to cause miscarriages and still births in pregnant women (AAP). Here are statements regarding raw milk from some medical and health organizations:
Health Canada Recent cases of illnesses linked to the consumption of raw milk prompt Health Canada to remind Canadians that drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk increases the risk of contracting a serious foodborne disease such as E. coli. The sale of raw milk has been strictly prohibited under the Food and Drug Regulations since 1991.
Dairy Processors of Canada urge all Canadians to avoid the serious risk of illness from drinking raw milk
Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Clinical and epidemiological studies from FDA, state health agencies, and others have established a direct causal link between gastrointestinal disease and the consumption of raw milk.
American Medial Association (AMA) reaffirms its policy that all milk sold for human consumption should be required to be pasteurized (p.144)
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises pregnant women, infants and children to consume only pasteurized milk, cheese and other milk products, and supports a ban on the sale of raw milk in the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) To protect the health of the public, state regulators should continue to support pasteurization and consider further restricting or prohibiting the sale and distribution of raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products in their states
International Food Protection Agency: Scientific evidence is clear that there is an increased risk of serious milkborne illness and even death associated with the consumption of raw milk
National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) strongly supports pasteurization before sale to the consumer. In addition, NEHA strongly supports consumer education about the dangers of consuming raw, unpasteurized milk.
Homemade Formula Using Raw Milk
Food Babe links to this article/video on how to make formula using raw cow’s milk. The video features blogger Sarah Pope from The Healthy Home Economist. I didn’t know much about Ms. Pope but did a bit of research and found out that she is of the anti-vaccine parenting regime and also recommends lying to your pediatrician about giving your children raw milk, likely because it is illegal and you might run the risk of social services getting involved (it has happened) if illness or death result because of it. In the video, Ms. Pope states:
“The best way to prepare your homemade baby formula is with whole, raw milk from old fashioned cows grazing on unsprayed pastures.”
Sarah Pope is not a nutritionist or registered dietician. She is not a medical doctor. She is not educated in health care, nutrition, agriculture or any of the like (sort of just like Ms. Hari). Sarah Pope has a degree in economics and her masters in government administration. As a blogger I write about my personal experiences of sleep training my kids and making homemade baby food, and essentially they are opinion pieces at the end of the day. But what Sarah Pope and Vani Hari are promoting is dangerous, just like their promotion against vaccinations is dangerous.
Choosing to give an infant raw milk in a homemade formula is not recommended and it is risky per our government regulations. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions in parenting—I get that—but this just downright scares me. If you do decide to go the homemade formula using raw milk route, use extreme caution, educate yourself, know the risk of environmental contaminates, animal-borne disease and pathogens, know your farmer, know their cows and tour the farm were just a few of tips I got from my dairy friends.
Call me biased, but I’m going with what the health and science organizations of the world recommend about raw milk, especially regarding infants and children who do not have the immunity that adults do. I spoke with many dairy farmers about this topic and a lot also agreed that being on a farm and being exposed to the same bacteria your cows are, is one thing—but exposing an infant to potentially deadly bacteria is not recommended.
Various scientific articles can be seen here for both the risks and benefits of raw milk. I’m not here to say “no one should ever drink raw milk”, it’s not a choice I would make for me and my family, and I certainly would not feel comfortable feeding my newborn babies raw milk. I would strongly caution feeding an infant raw milk for the reasons and references provided within this article, but then again—that’s just my opinion.