By Lana Barkman, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer
Lana has a master’s degree from K-State. She lives on a farm near Circleville, Kan., with her husband, Caleb, and their daughter. The farm includes chickens, horses, dogs, and cats. In her spare time, Lana competes in barrel racing and judges horse shows.
My daughter is nearly 18 months old right now. It’s the perfect age to remember all the things you were going to do as the “perfect” parent — and it’s been long enough to have broken most of those rules already.
Many of my high parenting standards were all about food. In fact, my goals for healthy eating started before giving birth. As a healthy adult, I was shocked to learn I’d developed gestational diabetes. I meticulously tried to control the problem with strict guidelines on healthy eating: fresh veggies, lean protein, no processed foods, not even grapes, which would cause my blood sugars to spike!
I ate a lot of lean beef, which provided a great source of iron and other essential nutrients. Anemia is another common concern for pregnant women, and lean beef was an excellent option to get the iron and protein I needed.
Growing up around cattle, I was confident in purchasing conventionally grown beef from the grocery store. I knew it was raised responsibly and was safe. Having owned and raised cattle myself, I know firsthand ranchers care for their livestock in the same exacting way I was taking care of my body and growing baby.
Milk does a body good
After giving birth, my goals continued into breastfeeding. I was going to breastfeed for at least a year. I knew it was the healthiest option for my child and our family bond. Under no circumstances was I going to give my baby formula.
Well, never say never. I drove myself crazy trying to keep my milk supply up. I tried professional advice and everything else on the Internet too — supplements, pumping, different latches and all the other tricks. None of it worked, and the strain contributed post-partum depression. Eventually, my mom and husband intervened and recommended formula.
In the end, I agreed to supplement. Unsurprisingly, my worst fears were never realized. My daughter and I have a wonderful, special bond. She is in excellent health and didn’t have an ear infection for 14 months. I was able to get more rest, which helped my recovery too. My husband, father and mother were able to take turns feeding her and had their own bonding time.
As a consumer, I was so thankful to have a safe, affordable alternative. In a way, the dairy farmers I personally know helped provide me with this option. Baby formula is commonly made from a combination of nonfat cows’ milk and other ingredients to provide the energy, vitamins and minerals infants need to grow. There are soy-based formulas as well. Guess what? Farmers help contribute to those options too!
As I prepare meals for my toddler, I am keeping this initial parenting experience in mind. A little flexibility helps, and every family must decide what is best for them. We are fortunate to live in a country where our options are all safe ones. It allows us to focus on our own family’s needs and feel confident that any choice is a good one.