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Kefir for Babies

 
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goat chicken bee
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Hello! My daughter just turned one and now I have to make the decision of what to replace breastmilk (currently weaning because I'm not really producing anymore)/formula with.  I'm not particularly thrilled with any of the options (cows milk, soy milk, almond milk, etc).  She really likes Kefir and I just recently found a source of raw milk and kefir grains so I will be making my own.  

So my question is, has anyone replaced formula with kefir? Does this sound like a terrible idea? I don't think I'll be switching 100% but maybe like 25-50%.  Any reason why I shouldn't do 100%.   I feel like I can't find any reason/information on why it would be a bad idea, except for the whole home-fermentation risk.  These decisions are so much harder when you are making them for somebody else that can't chime in about them.  Would love to hear any input and if anyone has done this themselves.
 
gardener
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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I'm by no means a baby or kefir expert but it seems to me that if the child is gradually introduced to it (powerful stuff) it would be excellent for them. Disclaimer: no babies were harmed in the making of this OPINION.
 
master steward
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From what I understand (and I could be mistaken, as I only ever breastfed because I have the problem of over production), formula isn't really needed once the little one turns one. Their guts are more developed (we no longer have to worry about botulism from honey, because of gut development, for example), and they are able to chew and digest more solid foods, and get more nutrients out of those solids. Usually, at a year of age, babies/toddlers switch from formula to whole milk. Though, whole milk can be hard for some to digest. I think kefir, yogurt, and cheeses give all the benefits of dairy, without it being hard for them to digest, and also helping to colonize their guts with beneficial bacteria. Yogurt can be made from raw milk, and it's actually easier to do that way. I used to make yogurt from raw milk. You heat it slowly to 110, so the milk is warm but not boiling or being pasteurized, add the yogurt culture (from what ever yogurt you like), and keep it at that temperature for 4-24 hours. 24 hours will remove all lactose and produce a sour yogurt. 4 hours makes a sweet yogurt that's probably not as healthy or as full of bacteria, but more palatable to some.

My husband has Crohn's so I've continued to breastfeed my daughter (she's a year and a half) and have slooooooowly introduced foods. Just a few days ago I now introduced dairy, starting with sheep cheese and yogurt, as those have less of the proteins that are found in cows milk--and both her and her brother reacted to cow's milk as infants. But, if your little one doesn't react to cow milk proteins, then I think making kefir and yogurt from raw cows milk would be great. Like Mike said, introduce it slowly--maybe start at half a cup and increase from there, in case it gives her the runs to begin with.

To ensure she's getting enough vitamins, also make sure to include lots of vitamin-rich foods in her diet: eggs (especially the yokes), berries, maybe liver once a week, vegetables, etc.
 
master steward
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I am also no expert on babies and don't have any children, and I do make and drink raw milk kefir, but it makes sense to me that what is good for a large sized person is good for the small versions too, maybe in smaller quantities? I think it's a good idea.
 
Miranda Converse
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goat chicken bee
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Thank you all for the responses! Makes me feel better that I'm not doing something totally wrong. I'm going to slowly increase how much I give to her and just judge when she seems to be getting a good amount.  Hoping to get her system a bit more regular after this recent round of antibiotics...

I just started making homemade kefir Monday and the first batch came out way sour and grainy but she drank it anyway.  There were way too many grains apparently so I'm going to scale that back and see if it makes a difference...
 
pollinator
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Location: Coastal British Columbia
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You might want to check out Sally Fallon's Baby & Child Care book (link The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care), in it she has a homemade very healthy formula recipe. I use it on my 5 month old as she needs extra milk that I can't produce. I give her a bottle/day and she loves it! It has a lot of important nutrients in it that commercial formula does not have...and I can't stomach giving my little girl high fructose corn syrup that is in normal (even organic) formula. This recipe includes lactose (that's the sweetener for it), gelatin, sunflower oil, olive oil, coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, nutritional yeast, milk (raw if you can get it), homemade whey, probiotics (I just use my kefir!), and filtered water. All things that you can order on Amazon or get at a health food store. Even at 1 year, baby's have a very immature immune system and gut, so it's important to give her all the right nutrients. Sally Fallon's book is super helpful and she gives lots of recipes for baby food too.

Having said all of that, kefir shouldn't be a problem for your 1 yr old. The foods that can be problematic at that age are lots of grains (oats, bread, rice), but animal foods and dairy are naturally easy on human's gut system. Her gut is already used to digesting human milk, so as long as she doesn't have a cow's milk allergy, kefir will be great for her. the only thing I would worry about is giving her too much. I don't think that it could replace formula 100%, but it could be an ingredient in her formula.

It's great that you are introducing her to sour tasting fermented foods, she will be much more open to unusual flavors as she grows up. My son (6) loves drinking straight buttermilk because I introduced him to yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods when he was a baby!

Another great food to give her at this age is homemade bone broth! I have a recipe on my blog, but there's lots of recipes out there. It's super simple to make and will give her lots of minerals and natural collagen/gelatin that makes her gut happy.
 
Miranda Converse
Posts: 258
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goat chicken bee
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Thank you for the info! I will check that out!
I’m trying to introduce lots of different stuff now so she is open to new foods in the future. So far she eats just about anything. I had pasta stuffed with sausage, pear, and dandelion(I think, the menu was in Italian so I’m not sure) and she didn’t bat an eye at it! She eats curry and even  spicy foods like jalapeño poppers.

Bone broth is definitely on my list of things to try at some point!
 
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