I realize this may not apply to a lot of folks here as a lot of you weaning past the point where your little really "needs" an alternative milk. And maybe mine doesn't either. But I've been thinking long and hard about this, and doing a ton of research, and I need some help here from you smart mamas!
I know this post is long and not all of it will apply to everyone's situation, but I'm hoping there will be some thoughtful answers and that this different parts of this post in the archives might help other mamas deciding what to do ... so I'm including my different research and different thoughts.
I also have a table, lol, comparing all of the different milks (hemp, almond, soy, rice, cow's, goat's, etc. -- fat, protein, sugars, fiber, etc. so if anyone wants to see that, email me ... I'm not sure how to upload it.
My unique situation is that my baby never latched and I've been pumping all of her breastmilk. Fast forward to six months and my supply dipped. I began supplementing with formula (about 10%). Each month I had a slight dip more, and by 11 months she was getting 50% pumped BM and 50% formula.
I was so eager to dump the formula at a year. It scares with with all of its chemically stuff.
I thought I would just replace the formula with ... rice milk. Or soy milk. Or I don't know. I thought a smart friend who researches well would tell me what to do. So now she is 13 months and I've kind of been winging it which is so not like me. I usually research like crazy. And the more I find out the more confused I get. Here are the facts, theories, and musings, as I see them:
ONE: I only pump 10-16 ounces a day of breastmilk right now. Since she was previously consuming about 30 ounces of liquidy stuff (breastmilk and formula) that has X amount of calories, protein, fast, etc. I feel like I’m tricking her body I suddenly giver her white liquidy stuff that’s a third of the calories and protein per ounce as the normal white liquidy stuff – that seems like that can’t be good. Her little belly can only hold so much and her body known to suckle and drink for dense nutrition. Almond and rice milk scare me for that reason (the unsweetened kinds have about 50 or 60 calories, as opposed to 150, etc.). I don't know if there's actual research on this, but intuitively it seems like a not great and trickster sort of move for a little 13 month old.
TWO: So, just FYI, what I am doing right now makes so real sense but it's influenced by the above. I give her rice milk, or sometimes a combination of rice and almond, "supplemented" with a scoop of formula. So she gets 1/2 as much formulas as she used to get (instead of one scoop for 2 ounces of water, I use one scoop per 4-5 ounces of rice or rice/almond milk). I'm neither free from the gross formula, nor doing something that makes total logical sense. I am still eager to get off of the syntheticness of formula.
THREE: In terms of analysis of actual milks, they all seem to have pros and cons.
*Goat's is closest breastmilk, but I can neither get raw nor organic in my Los Angeles neighborhood (and if I could, I wonder if cost would be a factor). And even organic, if it's a large farm, I believe contain hormones the goat's are given for breeding on schedule.
*Cow's is the second closest to goat's but I'm a little biased against it. For well established reasons and I just think it's a little hard on the digestive system. I think I would probably do it after two-years of age or so. Probably raw, organic cow's milk, which I can easily find here.
*Rice, almond, and hemp have good fats but much less protein and calories (unsweetened)
*I'm intrigued with making my own almond milk and using more almonds so it's richer. But then on the Organic Pastures website they have a scary bit about how supposedly raw almonds are really pasteurized and only they have really and truly real and healthy raw almonds, so then I think I would feel compelled to buy theirs and things would get prohibitively expensive. AND, it still wouldn't be as caloric or protein rich as BM/formula.
*Soy milk scares me for the potential hormone disruptor. We are vegetarians, so by nature we will have a lot of soy in our diet -- tofu, etc. I have read that the more processed soy tends to be the bigger problem, so my instinct is to avoid soymilk and save our soy consumption for tofu.
FOUR: I do give her lots of plain, full-fat yogurt which she loves, so I'm tempted to just do water and the 10-16 ounces I pump and water. BUT I plan to stop pumping by 18 months, and she still really craves the bottle and the way that gives her nutrition. I intuitively feel she still needs a BM equivalent, but I'm not sure for how long. Sometimes I just try plain ricemilk and she's fine with it. But again, see ONE.
FIVE: think ease is a little bit of a factor for me. I’m a single mom and we never latched so I’ve been exclusively pumping all of her breast milk. AND she was a super colicky baby. I want to give her the best nutritionally, but I’m eager for things to feel more “easy” thus I’m reluctant to implement some of my more sophisticated ideas such as:
-Keeping track of the amount of the food she consumes daily and checking out how much protein and fat she’s had (probably the two things I worry about the most) and then supplementing with whatever type of milk or supplements in the milk make sense depending on what she’s eaten (i.e. a fatty milk if she's not chosen to eat the avocado on her plate, or a proteiny milk if she's not chosen the yogurt or tofu).
-Making my own almond or peanut, etc. milk – this is hard in that’s it’s highly unportable. I can’t get little containers with straws like I can with rice milk; no one marks the date for me, so I have to estimate how long it’s good for, I have to find a high quality source of raw almonds, as listed above, etc. Plus I still might have to add stuff to make it nutritionally ideal.
-Using a base milk – such as Trader Joe’s unsweetened rice, and adding flax or hemp oil and some sort of protein – I’ve seen the suggestion of whey powder – easier to digest than milk – but I’m not sure if there’s a good quality organic source. This seems more do-able than making my own from nuts, as it’s just opening containers and pouring in stuff … but … it’s still not super portable. I might go for this if I were convinved it made the best sense.
That's it folks! I hope future searchers benefit from the thoroughness and that I have not inundated all of you. Mostly I hope future searchers and particularly myself :) benefit from the awesome answers that I often see on the Mothering boards. Thanks so much mamas!