Help Protect Co-Sleeping – Co-Sleeping Survey

I got this in my email inbox today. We were/are a co-sleeping family and so matters like this are dear to our heart. If you have ever or are currently co-sleeping please take a minute to fill out this very quick survey and be counted. Co-sleeping is not neglect.

Go to SURVEY

Hello breastfeeding supporters and educators,

As you well know, the best food for a new child is
breast milk. You also know that not everyone believes
that fact. The formula companies have successfully
“separated” today’s woman from her breast, at least
mentally. The leaders of the La Leche League are
trying to undo this unfortunate shift of culture, and
we thank you for it.

As you may also know, many of these same “Big Corp”
interests are attacking the Family Bed saying it can’t
be done safely. They, for all intensive purposes, have
a firm grasp on America’s idea about the ONLY safe
place that a child should sleep, a safety approved
crib. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing can be an integral
part of most breastfeeding situations. It makes it
easier, which helps extend the duration. However,
there is a very real movement to officially label
co-sleeping as NEGLECT. This would be a major step
back for breastfeeding.

There are important bed-sharing guidelines that need
to be followed, and not omitted. Public health
departments and the general public are being bombarded
with news stories calling for the end of co-sleeping.
They say it’s dangerous and can’t be done safely. You
as a professional know different.

Help get the message out to save this beneficial
parenting choice. Please ask your successful
co-sleeping families to help prove something that Mr.
Big Corp would like to hide…that people can and are
co-sleeping/bed-sharing safely.

www.co-sleepingsurvey.com is a 30 second survey that
allows parents who have or are currently
co-sleeping/bed-sharing to count themselves as safe
parents. The website has been live for under a week
and over 1000 people have signed up. Most of them are
breastfeeding women. This number is desperately needed
to prove that co-sleeping and bed-sharing can be done
safely and the only thing that needs to be abolished
is the discrimination against this valuable practice.

Thanks,

Co-sleepingsurvey.com

Just Some Family Babbles

Thought I would do a little family updating since I have a few minutes to sit down and post pictures and babble on about the family.

The Pregnancy:

Today I am officially 7 months (28 weeks) pregnant. Only 3 more months to go. All I can say is, how did that happen? It is flying by. My most recent visit with the midwife was a week and a half ago. I love having a midwife by the way. It is so nice that they come to my house for appointments. My midwife greets me with a hug every time I see her and she all ready feels like extended family. Her assistant/doula (also a former midwife) is just as warm and friendly albeit a bit less talkative. They seem to make a fabulous duo. Several times that they have come to my house for appointments I have had good friends over and no one minds, in fact my midwife loves to meet them, especially since she delivered one of my friends babies a few years ago. Babies heartrate was 144 bpm at the last appointment and was head down in a posterior position. None of that really matters at this point though because baby has changed positions about a few dozen times since then. But usually this baby prefers to be head down. My fundal height has been measuring big for dates the last two appointments. I was measuring 30 1/2cm or 30 weeks at 26 1/2 weeks gestation. At least it is not my imagination that my stomach is very quickly taking over my entire body. LOL.

This pregnancy has been really great and I’m honestly enjoying every minute of it. I’ve only had heartburn a few times and it quickly dissipates within a matter of minutes. I had heartburn constantly with Camden. Camden felt the baby move for the first time yesterday and giggled when she felt the baby kick. This baby is definitely getting much bigger because now when I can feel the baby moving and I push against him/her the baby doesn’t “disappear” but I can feel his/her body part. I can sometimes tell what I’m feeling (head, bum, foot, etc) based on kicking and feeling but I’m sure it will start to get much more obvious soon.

I also have the opportunity to have a massage therapist/doula at my labor, free of charge. My friend Emeth found out about a prenatal massage therapist that is becoming licensed as a doula and needs to attend two births to complete her certification. There would be no charge. I am still trying to decide if I like this idea or not. Our personalities didn’t quite “click” and she’s never attended a homebirth before. While there always needs to be a first time I’m just not sure if I want it to be at “my” birth. And massage during labor sounds fantastic in theory but I’m not sure how much I’ll want to be touched while in labor. Plus it is a complete stranger present at a very intimate moment in our lives. Anyway, something new to think about.

The House:

It’s still for sale. Every day I can’t help but think “if only we could sell this house life would be so much easier.” I am praying that this house will sell this summer. Mike is fairly pessimistic that it will sell. I’m a bit more optimistic since June has not even began yet. Thankfully it seems we are starting to get more interest. I am currently in email contact with a couple that is interested in the home but also has their own home to sell. Today, while Camden and I were finishing up lunch there was a knock on the door. A couple from Canada were in town for a few days looking at the area and were just driving around the neighborhood. The husband will be taking a job teaching Sociology at the local College. I was really embarrassed to let them in the house because it was a complete disaster but I didn’t want to turn them away either. There were dirty dishes because we’d just made cookies and lunch. Toys were everywhere. The beds were unmade. Dirty laundry on the floor. Ugh, you name it. But they seemed very understanding and didn’t seem to mind. They will not be moving to the Tri-Cities until August though.

Camden:

Next month Camden will be 3 1/2 years old. The time is going by so fast. She has recently mastered swinging and can swing herself! Hooray! It certainly doesn’t seem like a big deal but after about the 100th “mommy can you push me on the swing” and then battling internally on whether or not you should be a “good” mother and push your child on the swing or if you can get away with being selfish and saying “no”. I am glad I have graduated from that dilemma. Many more to come, I’m sure.

With the nice warm spring weather we have been having (70’s and 80’s) Camden is spending at least half of her time outside. She has discovered “dirt pies” (lack of water in the desert makes it hard to have mud pies) and thinks it is great fun to pretend to eat these.

There are so many precious things she is doing but of course now that I sit down to write about them I have a hard time thinking of any of them. One cute thing she is saying is during a prayer she uses the phrase “we hope for that we.” It is cute because she is so consistent with it. For example she will say “we hope for that we have a good day.” Children’s prayers are precious.

Camden has also discovered the joys of hand washing dishes. She loves it! Awhile back I was hand washing dishes and she asked to help. I let her wash the lid to a new glass container and she was head over heels in love. She wanted to do more but I didn’t have any more dirty dishes so I filled up the sink and let her wash all of her dishes, which were all ready clean but she didn’t care. She had such a good time.

Recent Pictures of Various Events:

Trip to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands

During this whole day I knew that this would be one of those days worth tucking into my memory. It was a perfect, beautiful day. Mike and I had decided that it would be fun to take the girls on a Ferry ride out to an island called Friday Harbor. We had taken Mikayla on the same trip when she was 2 and we thought of what a wonderful experience it would be to do it again. We drove to Anacortes and went to Friday Harbor as walk-on passengers and took the 9:30am departure. It was a bit cold on the ride out because of the wind but it was a gorgeous day. When we got to Friday Harbor the weather couldn’t have been better. It was in the 70’s with a light breeze and a beautiful blue sky. We decided to take the girls and find a local park so we talked to a local resident and found out that there was a nice playground at the Fairgrounds. It was about a 3/4 mile walk and the girls did great. At the park they played and we had a picnic. Then we walked back to town and had ice-cream and did some window shopping. We got the girls some cute wooden Ferry’s as a souvenir. The Ferry ride back to Anacortes was wonderful because it was much warmer and in the back of the Ferry there was hardly any wind. Such a great day. it was so wonderful to be among all things green again. The only thing that was not fun was the hour wait we had when we got back to Anacortes because apparently we got on the Ferry that had originally departed from Vancouver, Canada so we had to go through Customs and that took forever. Other than that it was such a neat and nice way to take a cheap, mini family vacation. The only other downside to this trip is that it was the final and ultimate straw in figuring out that I need a new camera. I had to delete over half the pictures I took and the shutter speed is so slow. The scenery was so absolutely gorgeous and I was wishing I had a camera that was capable of capturing it.

Mike, Camden and Mikayla on the morning trip out to Friday Harbor

Not a great pic but Mike hates taking pictures. I am almost 7 months pregnant in this pic.

Checking out the scenery

Camden being grouchy and refusing to look at the camera

Popping her head up to smile when she thought I’d put the camera away

Trying to keep warm on dad. It was really windy

The “I want to go inside out of the wind” face

Much happier. Inside the Ferry, out of the wind

Looking for “sharks”. I tried to tell them it would be more fruitful to search for a whale. We did see a Bald Eagle and plenty of seagulls.

Mikayla was trying to take a picture of Mike and I and Cami popped her head in. LOL

A really bad picture of Mike and I but there are so few of them, so here it is. And yes, he was forced to “smile” if that is what you want to call the above facial expression. LOL

Sitting on a bench in Friday Harbor

Another bench picture with Camden pretending to sleep

Swinging at the park

Another swinging pic

Sitting on a seal in the park

Rolling down the hill

Another rolling in the grass pic

Daddy swinging with the girls – they loved this

Another picture of the family swinging

Getting ready to depart out of Friday Harbor

Mikayla, she is getting so big!

Beautiful Friday Harbor – the picture just doesn’t do justice

Tuckered out

Various Other Miscellaneous Pictures:

Washing Dishes

Having Fun

Washing dishes kept her busy for an hour

HEAT WAVE: It was about 97 degrees out and Camden was the only one brave enough to be outside. I just snapped a picture and ran back into the air conditioned house.

Playing in the pool with her baby

More playing in the pool

Dealing with My Anger

Those who don’t intimately know me might not ever know that I have an anger problem. I definitely do. I guess I’ll confess it here because I’ve decided I need to nip this in the bud and deal with it now. Kind of like an accountability confession, I guess. I have a tendency to be a yeller, a behavior I learned as a child, and it really worries me how this can/will affect my daughter if I don’t get it under control. I don’t like the way I feel when I start yelling and I don’t like that “out of control” feeling. I work so hard to teach my daughter how to reign in her feelings and learn to control them but it is completely hypocritical if I can not model that for her.

I don’t have any memories of my mother yelling at me, she did such a fabulous job being patient and kind towards my brother and I. I remember as a pre-teen and teenager seeing my friends screaming at their mothers and their mothers screaming back at them and I just couldn’t imagine how they could have such little respect for each other. My biggest fear is to have a daughter that would talk/scream at me like that because I just wouldn’t know how to handle it. My mom and I never had a relationship like that.

I have stopped and considered that if I don’t stop yelling I am pretty much guaranteeing a daughter that will treat me with the same disrespect. Yes, she drives me absolutely batty sometimes but there is no excuse to yell. I tell her all the time that yelling doesn’t solve the problem and so I need to accept my own advice. I also have never felt motivated to change my behavior, to be humble, forgiving or loving towards someone who is yelling at me. If anything I tune them out, get angry with them or plot out revenge. Sometimes I even stare at them and think how silly and immature they are being and try not to laugh at them. I assume my daughters natural reactions are the same.

I mention this because I was very proud of myself yesterday. The first time we had to take Camden out of a restaurant for bad behavior was about 3 or 4 months ago. Maybe longer? I can’t remember. Anyway, it was a disaster. On the way home she began screaming at the top of her lungs in the car and crying and pleading with me and I kept telling her to stop talking that I needed not to talk because I was too angry but she wouldn’t stop trying to talk to me. I LOST it. Bad. I screamed at the top of my own lungs and I will never forget the fright in her eyes. I well up every time I think about it. I had hurt my own ears I had yelled so loud. I also felt awful because I was pregnant and I can only imagine how much I frightened the baby. It is one of those parenting moments that you bow your head in shame over. I even knew while I was doing it that it was wrong but it felt so “good” to scream it out and it was one of those “I know I shouldn’t do this but I don’t care” moments. Only after I was done did total regret and remorse take over. I cried the whole rest of the way home and when we got home I was able to apologize to her and explain that my behavior was not acceptable, etc but since that time I’ve known that I need to get myself together.

So yesterday was a nice turning point. We went to a really great place called Smoovies with my friend Emeth and her daughter. This is about one of the coolest restauarants/hang outs I have ever been to. I’d love to own something like it someday. The owners are wonderful people that homeschool their kiddo’s. And they have green bean fries! We tried those yesterday and they were soooooo good. I couldn’t believe it. Drool.

Anyway, we were having a great time but towards the end of the afternoon Camden starting getting grouchy and defiant. I assume she was tired. She started back talking, wasn’t listening and was overall being rude. I warned her that if she didn’t do X,Y,Z (can’t remember what now) that we were going to have to go home. Well, of course she didn’t do X,Y,Z which sucks because I really didn’t want to go home but I also refuse to have a child that knows they can get away with whatever they want in public. So I grab her hand and escort her out. Major meltdown explosion. Screaming, wailing, the whole bit. I calmly explain why we are leaving. She turns off the waterworks, “I’m not mad anymore. I’m all done crying. We can go back!” she pleads. I hold firm and explain that we are still leaving. Here come the deafening screams and kicking. I put her in her carseat and I try to slow my heart rate.

Emeth can only look at me with horror filled “I hope my child never does that” eyes and says, “I’m so sorry.” I want to say, “not as sorry as she’s going to be” but then I laugh (internally) at myself. She’s 3. I’m 27, get a grip. I say good-bye and try to situate myself in the car amongst a screaming, thrashing 3 year old. I close my eyes for a minue and then in a calm but firm voice inform her that screaming will not be tolerated. I acknowledged her anger and that she was mad to leave the restaurant but under no circumstances was she allowed to scream in the car. If she chose to scream again she would be going to her room when we got home. She accepted my challenge (what 3 year old wouldn’t?) and let out a gut wrenching scream at the top of her lungs. I tried to find the humor in this all instead of wanting to naturally turn around and pop her on the mouth (we don’t spank in our house for many reasons I’ll have to discuss another time) so then I chose to smile to myself (she couldn’t see my face). It helped me. I then calmy told her that since she chose to scream when we got home she would be going to her room. Sobbing and words beyond recognition ensued from there.

I felt my own anger rising and realized I couldn’t do this on my own. The habit was too strong. At this point I decided to pray for patience and guidance (something I don’t normally do). I breathed a few times and then said some pretty neat things that I can’t recall but the general idea was that I told her that we were all done talking in the car because I needed to focus on driving so that I could keep us safe and that we would talk about our problem when we got home. She was still really upset at this point and crying so hard that she was beginning to cough and make herself sick. She wisely noticed and then screamed, “I don’t feel good!” I felt like telling her “serves you right for throwing such a fit” but instead I leveled my own feelings and calmly pointed out to her that her body didn’t feel good because she was so angry and out of control. I told her that if she didn’t calm herself down that she might throw up. I told her she should try breathing and closing her eyes and that we’d talk about our problem when we got home. I was shocked that within a few minutes she had completely calmed herself down and was no longer crying.

She fell asleep for the last 5 minutes of our trip home and when we got home I picked her up out of the carseat. She opened her eyes and immediately started to well up with tears, remembering what all had taken place. I decided she was ready for reassurance (when she’s angry she normally will not accept physical contact) and held her closely against me. She melted into me and lightly sobbed. As I started walking towards the bedroom I realized that how I acted and responded during these next few minutes were going to determine the outcome of the situation and her willingness to either understand the situation from my point of view or turn into another full blown tantrum where she would forget why she was even angry. I continued to hold her and walked into her room.

I immediately felt her body tense up and she started to protest as I imagine she felt that I was going to abandon her in her room to stew in her own anger, disappointment and shame at having lost control. Instead, I laid down with her on her bed and said nothing. I reminded myself that the only way to truly help her accept the situation was through empathy and understanding. I waited. I decided to let her initiate conversation. I made eye contact with her and squeezed her tighter when she returned the eye contact. She lamented that she didn’t want to leave Smoovies. I empathized and agreed that I didn’t want to leave either. I acknowledged that she was very angry that we had to leave. She nodded and cried a little. I waited until the moment felt right and asked her if she knew why we had to leave? She nodded and said yes. I calmly and gently told her that it hurt my feelings when she treated me the way she did at the restaurant and we talked about listening and being respectful, etc. She genuinely apologized without being prompted and it felt like a huge victory.

Knowing that there was still some unresolved feelings I assured her that there were such things as bad choices but that bad choices didn’t make you a bad person. I confessed that her father and I make bad choices too but that the beauty in all of it is that we can learn from our bad choices and we can choose to seek forgiveness and that we can choose to change and make good choices. I pointed out to her that often times we can feel whether or not we are making good or bad choices by the way our body feels. I then reassured her that I always loved her despite her choices. That sometimes I would be disappointed with the choices that she makes but that I loved her no matter what. It was very cute because she then proceeded to drill me on this. “Do you love me when I’m angry?”, “when I’m sad?”, “when I’m mad?”, “when I’m grouchy?” I reassured her, that yes, I loved her even during those times. She then told me about how the next time we went to Smoovies she would choose to have a good day and make good choices, etc. We giggled about a few things that I can’t recall and then that was that.

I did it without yelling or losing control. It was beautifully simple but amazingly difficult to carry out because of my own shortcomings. I’ve read similar stories in many a parenting book and it always sounds so easy and so “duh” but when I am in the heat of conflict with my child I realize that I myself regress to behavior that is amazingly childlike and out of control. I am realizing that parenting is less about parenting my daughter and more about parenting myself and if I am wise and patient and parent myself well that my daughter will likely follow suit. More importantly you can not successfully impart upon a child what you do not know how to carry out yourself.

Interesting Study…Lousy Conclusion

In a recent German study, which was presented to the American Thoracic Societies International Conference on May 21st, researchers found that mothers exposed to farms or “farm milk” during their pregnancies conferred protection from allergies to their newborns.

Researchers found that the mothers exposure to farms or “farm milk” affected the babies T regulatory cells. These cells are believed to suppress immune response and therefore maintain and develop a healthy immune system.

“We found that the babies of mothers exposed to farms have more and better functioning regulatory T cells,” explained Bianca Schaub, M.D., who led the research team at University Children’s Hospital in Munich.

“The effect was strongest among those mothers who entered barns or drank farm milk.”

First of all, let’s call it like it is. A duck is a duck is a duck. I find it fascinating that through this entire press release they refer to raw milk as “farm milk.” Pasteurized milk comes from a farm too but you can be sure that this study was not looking at mothers that consumed pasteurized milk.

What is also being said in this study (albeit quite silently) is that you don’t have to live on a farm or be exposed to one to be able to confer these benefits to your child, you can simply drink raw milk. Good news for us suburban and urban dwellers since most of America’s households are 99.8% bacterial free Lysol homes.

Another noteworthy item? This study points out the benefits of drinking raw milk while pregnant. If, as a pregnant woman, you decided to mention to a health care professional that you drink raw milk (I wouldn’t recommend this) you can be quite sure that it will have a “shock and awe” affect quickly followed by a stern lecture. Raw milk consumption is hugely controversial in America and a very big “no, no” while pregnant. Me? I am guilty. Then again I am the mother to a little girl who appears to be allergic and or sensitive to about a million different things on this planet. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, if the act of drinking raw milk will help repair the damage that has all ready been done to her immune system and possibly spare her sibling the same allergenic fate then I am all aboard. By the way, we’ve been drinking raw milk for over a year with great results.

But my biggest pet peeve? That would be the conclusion that Dr. Schaub (one of the doctors conducting the study) presented:

“It is a long way off,” she concluded, “but these findings may one day hopefully help researchers to develop an effective preventive strategy, perhaps even a vaccine, against allergic diseases.”

Oh, another vaccine. Beautiful. So you take something full of simplicity and truth and you see how you can twist it into your medical model of something to sell. Shocking.

Here is the press release.

Breastmilk Can Not Be Imitated – The DHA/ARA Fallout and Oligosaccharides

EDITING TO ADD: Upon further research and after going to the company’s site that comes into question as the leading maker of synthetic DHA, Martek Biosciences Corporation, this supplement is found in MANY products, even organic products (which appears to be ILLEGAL). It is in Formula, Baby Food, Horizon Organic Milk, various yogurts, Silk, Minute Maid Juice, vitamin supplements, etc, etc, etc. I’m very disturbed that this is being given to pregnant women in the forms of yogurt specifically made for them, prenatals, etc. What are the possible negative effects this could have on an unborn child? Here is a LINK that shows all of the products that contain Martek’s DHA/ARA.

Despite how hard the Formula Companies would try and have you believe that formula is equivalent to breastmilk it is most definitely not. Their often touted slogan “closest to breastmilk” is a ridiculous statement. Not only because formula is nothing close to breastmilk but because that statement can only be made because there is little alternative out there not because it is actually close to breastmilk, it is only closest. I tried to think of a similar and clever “closest to” statement but I couldn’t come up with anything. Maybe you can think of something clever.

Now before I go further with this I need to state that there is a time and place for formula. It is a necessary product that has saved many infants lives and no mother that finds the need to use formula should be made to feel guilty about that. My intent with this post and the research that I put forward is not to belittle those mothers that currently or have in the past fed their children formula. My problem with formula is not its existence but the companies that produce it and the way they market it and cleverly undermine many would-be breastfeeding mothers from taking their natural course in nature’s intended food for baby. I also don’t appreciate how that in the end it is the bottom line and not for the well being of the child that things do or don’t get added to formula. I don’t doubt that there are women and children out there that *need* to formula feed. They exist and formula should be there for them. However, in-arguably, formula is not close to breastmilk and hard as they may try it probably never will be. We can sugar coat it all we want (and the formula companies spend a majority of their money doing this) but breastmilk can not be imitated.

A blogging friend of mine sent this article to me this morning. It is an article summarizing a report on DHA and ARA as additives in Formula and the risks and side effects that those additives pose to formula fed babies (or are suspected to pose). The full report is HERE. I am going to paste the article that was sent to me below and then after the article I will discuss oligosaccharides. The article came from INFACT CANADA.

Common ingredient in infant formula was found to be linked to diarrhea, severe dehydration and seizures in babies, according to complaints submitted to the FDA.

A shocking report has been released on the adverse health effects of fatty acids found in infant formulas. The Cornucopia Institute, a US-based corporate watchdog group, presented their findings on the fatty acids DHA and ARA, which are now commonly added to formula.

The report is based on a Freedom of Information Act request that the Cornucopia Institute filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the result of which was the uncovering of 98 reports filed by parents and physicians detailing incidences when babies had reacted adversely to formula containing DHA/ARA. The reported incidences range from cases of vomiting and diarrhea that stopped when babies switched to non-DHA/ARA formula to babies being treated in intensive care units for severe dehydration and seizures.

The FDA has never been convinced of the safety of DHA/ARA additives, according to the report. In its initial analysis of the additives, the FDA stated it had reached no determination on their safety status. The administration also noted that some studies had reported unexpected deaths among infants who had been fed with DHA/ARA formula. Despite its reservations, inexplicably the FDA did not withhold approval for the additives.

INFACT Canada has long questioned the use of DHA and ARA (also marketed as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) in infant formula. All major formula companies have added the fatty acids to their products in recent years, claiming that they aid in brain and eye development. However most test results have found the additives have negligible effects on infant development. But because DHA and ARA are found naturally in breastmilk, formula companies market DHA/ARA formula as ‘closer to breastmilk.’

Martek Biosciences Corporation, the company that supplies almost all formula companies with DHA/ARA, has admitted that the purpose of the additives is not to encourage healthy development, but to be used as a marketing tool. In its promotional material to encourage investment, Martek stated:

‘Infant formula is currently a commodity market, with all products being almost identical and marketers competing intensely to differentiate their product. Even if [DHA/ARA] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk.”

While DHA and ARA are found naturally in breast milk, the idea that Martek’s manufactured acids make formula closer to breast milk is ridiculous. Martek produces DHA and ARA from fermented algae and fungus, and uses hexane (a neurotoxin) in the manufacturing process. Simply adding these synthetic substances to formula cannot make artificial baby milk behave like breast milk, which is a complex, living substance that provides babies with the best possible nutrition and immunological protection.

Regular infant formula puts babies’ health at risk, but now infants are being harmed for the sake of a marketing tool. This is an egregious case of formula companies putting profit margins above infant health. In light of this report, it is imperative that all parents be made aware of the potential risks of feeding their babies formula with DHA/ARA. The products should be pulled from the market until their safety can be properly assessed by independent investigations.

Babies should not have to get sick just because companies want to raise their sales figures.

The following is how DHA and ARA are synthetically made. Obtained from HERE:

Martek Biosciences Corporation has patented a process to create both DHA and ARA in the laboratory setting. The problem is that the laboratory products are not the same as the naturally occurring products in human milk. In fact, the DHA that is added to formula is actually DHASCO (docosahexaenoic acid single cell oil), and the ARA is actually ARASCO (arachidonic acid single cell oil). They are structurally different from the DHA and ARA that a breastfeeding infant receives.

DHASCO is created from algae grown in tightly controlled fermentation conditions in a solution of glucose and yeast. Then the oil is extracted using hexame, a toxic petroleum by-product that has been associated with disorders of the central nervous system. The hexane is then removed. What remains is only about 40-50% DHA in a dilution of sunflower oil.

ARASCO is extracted from soil fungus using a similar process. According the Martek documents hexane is used in the processing of ARASCO as well.

Mothers have every right to be enraged with this knowledge. But will they be? I doubt it because the information will most likely never find its way to the mothers that need to hear it. The formula companies will certainly not be offering out the information. Formula is big money. It is big advertising. And unless a big hand comes down telling them to remove the supplement from the formula or enough pressure is put upon them to research it further, I doubt anything will come of it.

New discoveries about breastmilk are made all the time. A recent discovery in breastmilk that is capturing a lot of attention is oligosaccharides. It is an indigestible sugar like molecule and is the third largest solid component of breastmilk (after lactose and lipids) and makes up about 1% of the volume of breast milk. More than 200 oligosaccharides have been identified and some of them are only found in breastmilk. Not all women have the same number of oligosaccharides in their breast milk and from one study only a few oligosaccharides were common to all the women. I think that is a feature that is very important to note. Many other observations of breastmilk have found that the breastmilk of one mother is different from another and that breastmilk also changes throughout the course of the breastfeeding relationship as the child ages. They have also found that breastmilk in the same mother changes from baby to baby. Breastmilk is a living food that is individually tailored to the child receiving it. I think this is also important to note because not all breastmilk is created equal and a mother who has a more complete and nutritional diet will produce milk that reflects that. Anyway, back to oligosaccharides. Its role in breastmilk is still not fully understood but research thus far proposes that the following benefits are derived from the presence of oligosaccharides in breast milk:

  • As a prebiotic (different from a probiotic): improves digestion, including enhanced mineral absorption and the effectiveness and overall strength of the immune system. Some studies: HERE and HERE
  • A preventative of urinary tract infections. Study HERE
  • An anti-diarrhea agent
  • Protect the baby from pathogens that the mother has never even been exposed to
  • Each mother’s breastmilk has its own unique group of oligosaccharides that provide support to their own intestinal flora.

Another quote about oligosacchardies:

oligosaccharides are not digested and absorbed to any extent in the small intestine, but they attract harmful bacteria that latch onto them instead of becoming attached to the wall of the intestine where they would cause infection.

In the large bowel, oligosaccharides act as growth factors for beneficial bacteria which use them as a source of energy. From the fourth day of life, almost half the bacteria in the large intestine of breast-fed babies are the beneficial Bifidobacteria, compared with only 15 percent in infants fed formula milks which do not contain the range of oligosaccharides found in breast milk.

The oligosaccharides in breast milk are almost certainly why breast-fed infants have a lower incidence of diarrhoea, respiratory diseases and middle ear infections. Another of the oligosaccharides, called sialic acid, is essential for brain development.

I’m sure there are many other benefits to oligosaccharides that I haven’t touched upon and much more research is being done. In fact, in the article that I just posted about raw milk one of the scientists was discussing how these oligosaccharides which we know to be beneficial in breastmilk are also found in raw milk but not in pasteurized milk, begging the question on whether or not we are inadvertently ridding ourselves of what would be helpful bacteria by pasteurizing cows milk.

My point in posting about oligosacchardies is twofold. One, it is fascinating (well for some of us, I guess). Two, you can bet that the formula companies are scrambling to reproduce these oligosaccharides and put them into formula. Great in theory, yes. But just like the DHA and ARA fallout can you successfully replicate these oligosaccharides and get them to behave the same way in formula as you can in breastmilk? What side effects will occur in the artificial form? And how do you choose which oligosaccharides to imitate since women carry such a variety of them and in varying quantities? Here is a study showing the use of adding oligosaccharides to formula just to show you that they really are working on this. In formula land, the first company that can successfully incorporate oligosaccharides in breastmilk will have the upper hand in marketing it to the public. And that equals ka-ching!

For those who are interested, here is a report released in 2001 that compares the outcomes of breastfeeding vs formula feeding.

Step Away From “the white liquid substance”

Below is a very well written article that eloquently discusses the risks and benefits of raw milk and the political and scientific dynamic of what has people so up in arms about this food. I love the interplay of pro’s and con’s and the realistic approach that it takes. I also enjoyed hearing about the presence, benefits and study of oligosaccharides that are found in breastmilk. You can be sure that the formula does not contain oligosaccharides. Of course I also love the powerful evidence that is presented in positive affirmation that we need bacteria and that the understanding of that, is at the tip of the ice-berg. As for me, six-and-a-half months pregnant, and my three-and-a-half year old? We will continue to drink raw milk. The title that I chose for the post is one of the quotes in the article that literally made me laugh out loud. The hysteria that follows raw milk (thus the white bio-hazard suits) cracks me up to no end.

Obtained from Harpers Magazine.

The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized:

Inside the raw-milk underground

By Nathanael Johnson

The agents arrived before dawn. They concealed the squad car and police van behind trees, and there, on the road that runs past Michael Schmidt’s farm in Durham, Ontario, they waited for the dairyman to make his move. A team from the Ministry of Natural Resources had been watching Schmidt for months, shadowing him on his weekly runs to Toronto. Two officers had even infiltrated the farmer’s inner circle, obtaining for themselves samples of his product. Lab tests confirmed their suspicions. It was raw milk. The unpasteurized stuff. Now the time had come to take him down.

Schmidt had risen that morning at 4 a.m. He milked his cows and ate breakfast. He loaded up a delivery, then fired up the bus. But as he reached the end of the driveway, two cars moved in to block his path. A police officer stepped into the road and raised his hand. Another ran to the bus and banged on the door. Others were close behind. Eventually twenty-four officers from five different agencies would search the farm. Many of them carried guns.

“The farm basically flooded, from everywhere came these people,” Schmidt later told me in his lilting German accent. “It looked like the Russian army coming, all these men with earflap hats.”

The process of heating milk to kill bacteria has been common for nearly a century, and selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption is currently illegal in Canada and in half the U.S. states. Yet thousands of people in North America still seek raw milk. Some say milk in its natural state keeps them healthy; others just crave its taste. Schmidt operates one of the many black-market networks that supply these raw-milk enthusiasts.

Schmidt showed men in biohazard suits around his barn, both annoyed and amused by the absurdity of the situation. The government had known that he was producing raw milk for at least a dozen years, yet an officer was now informing him that they would be seizing all the “unpasteurized product” and shuttling it to the University of Guelph for testing.

In recent years, raids of this sort have not been unusual. In October 2006, Michigan officials destroyed a truckload of Richard Hebron’s unpasteurized dairy. The previous month, the Ohio Department of Agriculture shut down Carol Schmitmeyer’s farm for selling raw milk. Cincinnati cops also swooped in to stop Gary Oaks in March 2006 as he unloaded raw milk in the parking lot of a local church. When bewildered residents gathered around, an officer told them to step away from “the white liquid substance.” The previous September an undercover agent in Ohio asked Amish dairyman Arlie Stutzman for a jug of unpasteurized milk. Stutzman refused payment, but when the agent offered to leave a donation instead, the farmer said he could give whatever he thought was fair. Busted.

If the police actions against Schmidt and other farmers have been overzealous, they are nevertheless motivated by a real threat. The requirement for pasteurization—heating milk to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen seconds—neutralizes such deadly bacteria as Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and salmonella. Between 1919, when only a third of the milk in Massachusetts was pasteurized, and 1939, when almost all of it was, the number of outbreaks of milk-borne disease fell by nearly 90 percent. Indeed, pasteurization is part of a much broader security cordon set up in the past century to protect people from germs. Although milk has a special place on the watch list (it’s not washable and comes out of apertures that sit just below the orifice of excretion), all foods are subject to scrutiny. The thing that makes our defense against raw milk so interesting, however, is the mounting evidence that these health measures also could be doing us great harm.

Over the past fifty years, people in developed countries began showing up in doctors’ offices with autoimmune disorders in far greater numbers. In many places, the rates of such conditions as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease have doubled and even tripled. Almost half the people living in First World nations now suffer from allergies. It turns out that people who grow up on farms are much less likely to have these problems. Perhaps, scientists hypothesized, we’ve become too clean and aren’t being exposed to the bacteria we need to prime our immune systems.

What we pour over our cereal has become the physical analogue of this larger ideological struggle over microbial security. The very thing that makes raw milk dangerous, its dirtiness, may make people healthier, and pasteurization could be cleansing beneficial bacteria from milk. The recent wave of raw-milk busts comes at a time when new evidence is invigorating those who threaten to throw open our borders to bacterial incursion. Public-health officials are infuriated by the raw milkers’ sheer wrongheadedness and inability to correctly interpret the facts, and the raw milkers feel the same way about them. Milk as it emerges from the teat, it seems, is both panacea and poison.


Schmidt responded to the raid on his farm by immediately going on a hunger strike. For a month he consumed nothing but a glass of raw milk a day. He milked a cow on the lawn outside Ontario’s provincial parliament. This was a battle, he said, for which he was prepared to lose his farm. He was ready to go to jail. Actually, he’d been awaiting arrest for more than a decade. For all that time, he told me, he’d carried a camera with him so that he could take pictures when the authorities finally came to shut him down. “And I upgraded. You know, first it was still, then video, then digital came along.”

The fifty-three-year-old Schmidt doesn’t have the demeanor of a rabble-rouser. His temperament, in fact, is not unlike that of the cows he tends. A large man, he moves deliberately, reacts placidly to provocation. He has thin blond hair, light-blue eyes, and pockmarked cheeks. On the farm he invariably wears black jeans, a white shirt, and a black vest. In the summer he dons a broad-brimmed straw hat; in the winter, a black newsboy’s cap.

When Schmidt emigrated from Germany in 1983, he wanted to start a farm that would operate in a manner fundamentally different from that of the average industrial dairy. Instead of lodging his cows in a manure-filled lot, he would give them abundant pastures. Instead of feeding them corn and silage, he’d give them grass. And instead of managing hundreds of anonymous animals to maximize the return on his investment, he would care for about fifty cows and maximize health and ecological harmony. If he kept the grasses and cows and pigs and all the components of the farm’s ecosystem healthy, he believed the bacterial ecosystem in the milk would be healthy, too.

Schmidt bought 600 acres three hours northwest of Toronto. There he built up a herd of Canadiennes, handsome brown-and-black animals with black-tipped horns. Most cattle farmers burn off the horn buds—a guarantee against being gored—but Schmidt believes it’s better to leave things in their natural state whenever possible. The dangers posed by the horns (like the dangers of drinking unpasteurized milk) weighed less heavily on him than the risk of disrupting some unknown element of nature’s design.

The farm flourished under his hand. Schmidt set up a cow-share system whereby, instead of purchasing raw dairy, customers leased a portion of a cow and paid a “boarding fee” when they picked up milk. People were technically drinking milk from their own cows. The animals were, for all practical purposes, still Schmidt’s property, but the scheme made the defiance of the law less flagrant, and health officials could look the other way. Then, in 1994, the Canadian Broadcasting Company aired a documentary about Schmidt and his unpasteurized product. A few months later he was charged with endangering the public health.

Because Schmidt believed that his style of biodynamic farming actually secured the public health, he decided to fight the charges. Newspapers began quoting him on the salubrious powers of raw milk and the detriments of industrial dairy. At this time, strange things started happening around the farm. Vandals broke into his barn. Schmidt found two of his cows lying dead in the yard, apparently poisoned. Then an unmarked van ran his cousin’s car off the road. Men jumped out of the van’s back and forced him inside, holding him there for two hours. Schmidt hadn’t been prepared for the struggle to take this turn. He sent his cousin back to Germany, agreed to plead guilty in court, and sold all but 100 acres of his farm to pay the government fines and cover his lost income.

Schmidt is a man of Teutonic certainty, but as he walked into the field soon after he’d sold the land, he was filled with doubt. The morning sun had turned the sky red, and mist hung around the legs of the cattle. While he twitched a stick at his bull, Xamos, to turn him away from the cows, Schmidt wondered whether it was even possible to run a farm in the manner he wanted. If he started selling his milk at industrial prices it would erode his meticulous style of farming. He would lose the direct connection to his customers. He’d have to push his cows to produce more milk. He’d be compelled to adopt the newest feed-management strategies and modernize his equipment. Schmidt didn’t see Xamos coming, just felt the explosion as the bull struck him. Even as he hit the ground, the animal was on him, bellowing. It stabbed with one horn and then the other, tearing up the earth and ripping off Schmidt’s clothes. One horn sank into Schmidt’s belly, another ripped into his chest and shoulder, grazing a lung. Only when his wife charged into the field, flanked by the couple’s snarling dogs, did Xamos retreat. Another man might have taken this attack as a sure sign, a demonstration of the folly of seeking harmony with nature. As Schmidt lay there bleeding into the earth, however, he felt only humility. “Nature is dangerous, yes,” he would tell me later. “But I can’t control it, and I can’t escape from it. I can only learn the best way to live with it.”

By the time Schmidt could walk again, almost six weeks later, he’d decided to continue farming on his own terms. He announced his intentions publicly, but the regulators must have felt that they’d made their point. For years he continued farming quietly, as an outlaw, until the morning that government agents descended on his dairy. After the hunger strike and the other public acts of protest, Schmidt settled in for the long fight. He hired a top defense lawyer in hopes of overturning Ontario’s raw-milk ban.


In the twenty-five years that Schmidt has operated the dairy, no one has ever reported falling sick after drinking his milk. Yet raw-milk illnesses do crop up. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States averages seventy cases of raw-dairy food poisoning each year. In the fall of 2006, for instance, California officials announced that raw milk tainted with E. coli was responsible for a rash of illnesses. It is legal to sell unpasteurized dairy in California, and the tainted milk came from Organic Pastures, in Fresno, the largest of several farms that supply the state’s health-food stores.

Tony Martin had agonized over buying the raw milk. He’d never brought it home before. He knew that milk was pasteurized for a reason, but he’d also heard that the raw stuff might help his son’s allergies. “There was a lot of picking it up off the shelf and putting it back,” he said. Chris, his seven-year-old, drank the Organic Pastures milk three days in a row over a Labor Day weekend. On Wednesday, Chris woke up pale and lethargic. On Thursday he had diarrhea and was vomiting. That night he had blood in his stool, and the Martins rushed him to the hospital. Shortly afterward, several other children checked into southern California hospitals. All of them had drunk Organic Pastures raw-milk products, and they all were diagnosed as being infected with a virulent strain of E. coli known as O157:H7. Some of the children recovered rapidly, but two, Chris Martin and Lauren Herzog, got progressively worse. The O157:H7 strain releases a jet of toxins when it comes

into contact with antibiotics, so doctors face the difficult decision of allowing nature to take its course or intervening and risking further damage. Chris’s doctors administered antibiotics, Lauren’s did not, yet both children’s kidneys shut down. While Chris was on dialysis, his body became so swollen that his father said he wouldn’t have recognized him if he passed him on the street. Chris was in the hospital fifty-five days. Lauren went home after a month but then relapsed and had to return. Both children eventually recovered but may have suffered permanent kidney damage.

The illnesses didn’t stop raw-milk sales. Even as the state ordered store managers to destroy the milk on their shelves, customers rushed in to buy whatever they could. Several Organic Pastures customers said regulators had simply pinned unrelated illnesses on the milk. They pointed out that siblings and friends of the sick children had drunk the same milk from the same bottles and didn’t get so much as diarrhea. Tests for E. coli in one of the milk bottles in question had also turned up negative. Although it seemed implausible that the state would frame Mark McAfee, the owner of Organic Pastures, it certainly was possible that regulators were predisposed to declare raw milk guilty. When state veterinarians came to search Organic Pastures for E. coli, they were surprised to see that the manure they pulled from the cows’ rectums was watery and contained less bacteria than usual. Patrick Kennelly, chief of the food-safety section at the California Department of Health Services, confronted McAfee with these facts in an email, writing, “Not only is this unnatural, but it is consistent with the type of reactions that an animal might have after being treated with high doses of antibiotics. . . . Why were your cows in this condition, Mark?”

McAfee does not use antibiotics on his organic farm. The state tests all shipments of his milk for antibiotics residue and has never found any. Allan Nation, a grazing expert, offered another explanation: the cows had been eating grass. Grass-fed cows carry a lower number of pathogens, he said. And for a few days in the spring and fall, when the weather changes and new grass sprouts, the cows “tend to squirt,” as Nation put it. But grass-eating cows have become so rare that, to California health officials, they seemed unnatural. The norms of industrial dairying had become so deeply ingrained that a regulator could jump to the conclu sion that all milk is dirty until pasteurized.


Around the time that Chicago passed the first pasteurization law in the United States, in 1908, many of the dairies supplying cities had themselves become urban. They were crowded, grassless, and filthy. Unscrupulous proprietors added chalk and plaster of paris to extend the milk. Consumptive workers coughed into their pails, spreading tuberculosis; children contracted diseases like scarlet fever from milk. Pasteurization was an easy solution. But pasteurization also gave farmers license to be unsanitary. They knew that if fecal bacteria got in the milk, the heating process would eventually take care of it. Customers didn’t notice, or pay less, when they drank the corpses of a few thousand pathogens. As a result, farmers who emphasized animal health and cleanliness were at a disadvantage to those who simply pushed for greater production.

After a century of pasteurization, modern dairies, to put it bluntly, are covered in shit. Most have a viscous lagoon full of it. Cows lie in it. Wastewater is recycled to flush out their stalls. Farmers do dip cows’ teats in iodine, but standards mandate only that the number of germs swimming around their bulk tanks be below 100,000 per milliliter.

When I was working as a newspaper reporter in Cassia County, Idaho, a local dairyman, Brent Stoker, had wanted to raise thousands of calves on his farm and sell them to dairies as replacements for their worn-out cows. Stoker’s neighbors, incensed by the idea of all that manure near their houses, stopped the project. Stoker wasn’t an especially dirty farmer—dairy associations showed off his farm on tours—but, to survive, dairies must produce a lot of milk, which means producing a lot of feces. I called Stoker recently, to talk dairy and catch up. He was in the middle of another fight with the neighbors. This time he wanted to build a large organic dairy. I said I hadn’t taken him for the organic type.

“Pay me enough and I am,” he said. Organic may mean no antibiotics and no pesticides, but it doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed. When it comes to making milk, grass-fed cows simply can’t compete. Stoker’s current herd of non-organic cows produce a prodigious eighty pounds of milk per day. That’s mostly because they are fed like Olympic athletes. They eat a carefully formulated mix of roughage and high-energy grains. “If you were to try to pasture them, you’d lose production down to about forty pounds,” Stoker said. “Of course, the cow would last a lot longer.”

Cows are designed to eat grass, not grain. Unlike mammals that can’t digest the cellulose in grass, ruminants are able to access the solar energy locked in a green pasture by enlisting the aid of microbes. These bacteria are cellulose specialists and turn grass into the nutrient building blocks that cud-chewing animals need. In return, cows provide a place for bacteria to live—the rumen—and a steady supply of food. This relationship shifts when a cow begins eating grain. The cellulose specialists lose their place to bacteria better suited to the new food supply but not necessarily so well suited to the cow. The new bacteria give off acids, which in extreme conditions can send the animal into shock. Pushing too much high-energy feed through a cow can twist part of its stomach around other organs. This kink backs up the digestive flow to a trickle. The cow will stop eating, and sometimes you can see the knotted guts bulging under the skin. Other disorders also result from the combination of high-energy feeds and high production: abscessed liver, ulcerated rumen, rotten hooves, inflammation of the udders.

It is in a farmer’s interest to keep a cow healthy—but not too healthy. If a dairyman decreased the grain portion of a cow’s rations to a level that eliminated health problems, he would lose money. A balance must be struck between health and yield. It’s not surprising, then, that farmers end up sending grain-fed cows off to the hamburger plant at a much younger age than their pastured counterparts. On average, dairy farmers slaughter a third of their herds each year. As Brent Stoker put it, “We’re mining the cow.”

There are other bacterial opportunists that move in when a cow’s gastric environment is disturbed by a change in diet. Tired cows and ubiquitous feces combine to create conditions that are ideal for the transmission of pathogens. In a 2002 survey of American farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Campylobacter in 98 percent of all dairies and E. coli O157:H7 on more than half of farms with 500 or more cows. When the milk at these large farms was tested, the researchers discovered salmonella in 3 percent of all bulk tanks and Listeria monocytogenes in 7 percent. If that milk were shipped to supermarkets without pasteurization, a lot of people would get sick. Healthy cows with plenty of energy are less likely to take on pathogens.

I asked Stoker if he’d ever considered returning to a smaller, healthier style of farming. “If I had a way to provide for my six kids and have a comparable standard of living I would do that,” Stoker said. “The way it is now, I’m more stressed, the animals are more stressed, our crops are probably more stressed. There’s nothing I would like more than to go back to that, but I’m too stupid to figure out how.”

The problem isn’t Stoker’s intelligence; it’s what he calls the “dishonesty of the market.” Advertisers promise that consumers can have the healthiest possible food from happy animals in idyllic settings at current prices. This obviously is a lie, but it’s a lie that most people accept. Although American consumers are periodically outraged by the realities of modern agriculture, they never stop demanding cheaper food. Stoker doesn’t mind playing the hand he’s been dealt. He’s good at producing cheap food. But, he acknowledged, “cheap food makes for expensive health care.”


The people who buy from Michael Schmidt are atypical consumers. They pay a premium for food they believe will keep them healthy. In their estimation, Schmidt has a biological formula working for him that will be to their benefit. The elements of a dairy farm—the cows, plants, microbes, and humans—have been together long enough to have sorted out their differences. By working within this system, Schmidt can take advantage of some natural efficiencies. Although the life expectancy of a conventional dairy cow is a little under five years, Schmidt’s cows are eight, nine, and twelve years old; they are glossy-coated and solid on their feet. Schmidt told me that he hasn’t needed to have someone trim his cows’ hooves in fifteen years. The cows produce only around twenty-five pounds of milk daily, one third the production of Brent Stoker’s animals, but Schmidt doesn’t have to pay much for veterinary service. He doesn’t have to slap haunches to roust exhausted animals from their beds; his cows actually line up on their own for milking. There’s a little trick he likes to show off when it’s time for them to return from the fields.

“Watch this,” Schmidt said, and he pulled open the door. The cows came jogging in, each one peeling out of line to take her place, unprompted, in the barn beneath a white placard bearing her name: anna, sophia, cantate, laura. They buried their heads in the hay. He beamed. So far the microbes that end up in Schmidt’s milk have been benign, possibly beneficial. He says biodynamic farming doesn’t open up new niches for unfamiliar forms of bacteria, and it encourages the ones people have adapted to.

It turns out that black-market buyers aren’t the only ones who think germ-infested milk is healthy. The yogurt giant Dannon has invested heavily in understanding the benefits of bacteria, and the company now sells dairy products stocked with healthy, or “probiotic,” microbes: DanActive, “an ally for your body’s defenses,” which comes in a small pill-shaped bottle and provides a dose of an organism owned in full by Dannon called L. casei Immunitas; Danimals, a more playfully packaged bacteria-infused drink, designed to appeal to children; and Activia, a yogurt containing a bacterium the company has named Bifidus regularis, which “is scientifically proven to help with slow intestinal transit.” Both Michael Schmidt and Dannon may be working to reintroduce bacteria into the modern diet, but Schmidt labors under a principle of submission. He accepts the presence of unknown microbes and tries to make his customers healthy by keeping the creeks that run through his farm clean, by maintaining the stability of his ecosystem. In contrast, Dannon’s is a philosophy of mastery.

Milk comes to Dannon’s Fort Worth processing plant in tanker trucks, arriving wild, full of its own diverse bacteria. It leaves the factory civilized and safe, in four-ounce cups. It takes a lot of machinery to accomplish this domestication: miles of stainless-steel pipes, huge fermentation vats, and dozens of white-frocked, hairnet-wearing workers. Although the process is intricate, the concept is simple: kill the bacteria, then add bacteria. Workers pasteurize the milk not once but twice. All yogurt is made when benign bacteria are mixed into milk. But Dannon also adds probiotic bacteria, and when I visited the plant last year, this is what I asked to see. Dannon employees looked at one another nervously. The bacterial strains are proprietary, and so are the methods surrounding their use. My public relations minder, Michael Neuwirth, exchanged a few words with J. W. Erskin, the plant manager, then nodded.

“We can see the place where it’s done,” Neuwirth said.

The room was lined with freezers. Neuwirth opened one, and frost billowed out. Inside were stacks of what looked like one-quart milk cartons, encrusted with ice. “This is for Activia, right?” Neuwirth asked.

“Yep,” Erskin said. “Regularis.”

The Dannon workers explained that each carton contained thousands of tiny pellets consisting of frozen milk and bacteria. You can buy non-proprietary yogurt-making bacteria for about $40 a bottle from several suppliers. No one at Dannon would tell me the price of the company’s proprietary strains, but Erskin said, “When our little friends die, it’s very costly.”

Workers wait for the moment when the milk reaches the ideal temperature, then add the bacteria. Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a yogurt-making bacterium, acts first, converting sugar to acid; Streptococcus thermophilus is next. These prepare the substance for the probiotic strains. Every bacterial move is choreographed. Although the Dannon people wouldn’t show me how the healthy microbes fit into this process, they did take me next door, to the bottling room, where the precision continued, though in engineering rather than biochemistry. The most beautiful machine there was the one filling little bottles with DanActive. The bottles moved across the ceiling, propelled by compressed air along a metal track, halting, then scooting forward, like a line of penguins. When the bottles reached the machine, an auger caught them in its threads, sending them spinning in an endless line around gears and carousels. The machine cleaned the bottles with acid, zapped them with sterilizing UV light, filled, sealed, boxed, and stacked them—in scherzo—at 460 containers per minute.

Erskin stood beside me, watching through the Plexiglas window.

“It’s like a ballet,” he said.


Dannon’s new lines of products lend some credibility to the claims of bacterial necessity made by Schmidt and other raw-milk advocates. Albeit cautiously, scientists have also begun weighing in on whether such technologies as pasteurization have purged necessary bacteria from our food. When I started talking to milk experts, several told me I needed to speak to Bruce German. A food chemist at U.C. Davis, German realized early in his career that if he could determine what a food perfectly suited to our DNA looked like, he would have a Rosetta Stone with which to solve the puzzle of dietary well-being. He would be able to examine each molecular component of this food to understand what it was doing to make people healthy. No plant would do as a model, since evolutionary pressure tends to favor plants that can avoid being eaten. The model food would be just the opposite: something that had evolved specifically to be a meal, something shaped by constant Darwinian selection to satisfy all the dietary needs of mammals. That Ur-food, of course, is milk.

The day I visited German, he was hosting a reception in honor of Agilent, a company that had helped develop a machine able to analyze oligosaccharides, sugar polymers found in breast milk. As we walked across the U.C. Davis campus, German brought me up to speed. He’s a slight, energetic man, with smile lines creased into his face. His excitement for his work is infectious. Oligosaccharides make up a large portion of human milk, in which they are about as abundant as proteins. The curious thing about them, German said, is that they are indigestible. Which means, he said, one hand chopping the air, that they are there to feed the bacteria living inside a baby’s gut, not to feed the baby. As far as scientists know, only one microbe thrives on this sugar, a bacterium named Bifidobacterium infantis that has a fairly unique genome.

“There’s a lot of evidence that we coevolved with this organism,” German explained. “It’s really specialized to us and vice versa. Mothers recruit this entire life form to help the process of digestion.”

Chemists have identified numerous other compounds in milk that are there not just to nourish babies but to create a specific microbial ecosystem. Lactoferrin, lysozyme, and lactoperoxidase kill off only harmful bacteria, not beneficial bacteria. (These selective bactericides, along with oligosaccharides, are also in cow’s milk, though in lower concentrations.) Consider, German said, what it means that milk, the model food, has evolved such a sophisticated chemical system that caters not to us but to our microbial friends. It means, he said, raising his eyebrows, that “bacteria are tremendously important to us”—so important that researchers studying the microbes living inside us say it’s unclear where our bodily functions end and the functions of microbes begin.

By any rational measure, this world belongs to microbes. They were mastering the subtleties of evolution three billion years before the first multicellular organism appeared. They continue to evolve and adapt in a tiny fraction of the time it takes us to reproduce once. They flourish in polar ice caps, in boiling water, and amid radioactive waste. We exist only because some of them find us useful. Ninety percent of the cells in our bodies are bacteria. The entirety of human evolution has taken place in an environment saturated with microbes, and humans are so firmly adapted to the routine of sheltering allies and rebuffing enemies that the removal of either can devastate our defense systems.

For the past century, however, we’ve done our best to wall ourselves off from microbes. In 1989, David Strachan put forward the “hygiene hypothesis,” which posed that this separation could be causing the increased incidence of immune disorders. As the years have passed, many studies have helped refine his proposal. Scientists found that hygiene itself wasn’t a problem. People who never used antibacterial soap were just as likely to have asthma as those who scrubbed obsessively. In a 2006 study of thousands of children living on farms in Shropshire, England, Strachan and another scientist, Michael Perkin, found that raw-milk drinkers were unlikely to have eczema or to react to allergens in skin-prick tests. “The protective effect of unpasteurized milk consumption was remarkably robust,” Strachan and Perkin wrote. Then, in May of 2007, a group of scientists published a paper after surveying almost 15,000 children around Europe. They found that children who drank raw milk were less likely to have any among a wide range of allergies. Either there’s something about industrial milk that’s harmful, Perkin wrote in a commentary that accompanied the paper, or there’s something in raw milk that’s beneficial.

None of these findings mean that raw milk is safe. Every single study contains the caveat that raw milk often harbors pathogens. From an epidemiological perspective, Bruce German told me, advising raw-milk consumption at this point “would be crazy.” Health officials certainly should have a high level of confidence before approving anything risky. But in light of the new evidence, it was becoming harder to deny that something beneficial was being lost during pasteurization. And health offiicials also have an obligation to ensure that they are not outlawing what makes us healthy.


Last March I drove to Fresno to meet Organic Pastures owner Mark McAfee and see how he had fared since the E. coli outbreak. The dairy is made up of a few prefabricated double-wide trailers on 450 acres of pasture extending out into the hazy flatness of California’s Central Valley. When I arrived, some 200 cows were chewing their cud on thirty shadeless acres of closely cropped grass. McAfee culls about 14 percent of his herd each year, far below the industry’s average but still above Schmidt’s. When you have fewer than fifty cows, like Schmidt, it’s different, McAfee said. “You have time to give each one a foot rub every night. You can do yoga with them every morning.”

After walking through the dairy, we sat down in McAfee’s office. Lab results had found the exact same sub-strain of E. coli O157:H7 in almost all of the children who fell ill after drinking unpasteurized dairy. Yet McAfee remained unfazed. How did it help to show that the bacteria from each patient matched, he asked, when one patient, an eighteen-year-old in Nevada City, claimed he hadn’t drunk the milk? The disease trackers I talked to explained this by saying that sometimes germs move indirectly. Someone else in the family spills a little milk. You wipe it up. Then you wipe your mouth. But there was another theory I’d been hearing from scientists working to explain why O157:H7 had burst onto the scene in the 1980s with such virulence. Maybe, they said, it wasn’t that the bacteria had changed but that we had changed. In Brazil outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 are unheard of, though the bacteria exist there. A pair of recent studies show that Brazilian women have antibodies protecting them against O157:H7 and that they pass these antibodies to their children through the placenta and their breast milk. I found this interesting, especially in light of the fact that in every case I learned about, the victims of the Organic Pastures outbreak had just started drinking McAfee’s milk. Perhaps those who had been drinking the milk longer had developed the antibodies.

“It’s an old story,” McAfee said. “You see it again and again in the lists of outbreaks. City kids went to the country, drank raw milk, and got sick; country kids didn’t get sick.” But, I pointed out, this explanation still implicates Organic Pastures. McAfee shook his head. “Look, if I made four kids sick, I made four kids sick. But show me the 50,000 kids I made healthy. We don’t guarantee zero risk. We aren’t worried about the .001 percent chance that someone will get sick; we are worried about the 99 percent assurance that you are going to get sick if you eat a totally sterile, anonymous, homogenous diet.”

The problem for McAfee is that the .001 percent is shocking and visible. A dying child will make people change their behavior. The diseases that might stem from a lack of bacteria are much more subtle. They come on slowly. It’s difficult to link cause and effect. Businesses that contribute to chronic disease often flourish while businesses that contribute to acute disease get shut down. McAfee, now clearly incensed, dismissed this line of reasoning. “If my milk gets someone sick, I deserve some blame, but not all of it. People have to take responsibility for maintaining their own immune systems. And we have to look at an environmental level too. Where did these germs come from? E. coli O157:H7 evolved in grain-fed cattle. It’s amazing to me that we’ve sat by as factory farmers feed more than half the antibiotics in the country to animals and breed these antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the same time the food corporations are destroying our immune systems. I believe our forefathers would have grabbed their muskets and gone and shot someone over this. They would have had a tea party over this.”

Instead of grabbing his musket, McAfee is expanding. He’s building a $2 million creamery, complete with a raw-milk museum. He expects to finish construction in 2009. I asked what he’d do if regulators come to shut that down.

“I have an email list of 8,000, ready for immediate revolutionary action,” he said. When the California legislature quietly passed a law late last year with such strict standards that it constituted a de facto ban on raw milk, McAfee mobilized these forces. In January hundreds of people packed into a committee chamber in Sacramento carrying their children and wearing black got raw milk? T-shirts. A legislative study group is now working to come up with new standards.


Aside from the revolutionaries and reactionaries, what are the rest of us to do? When Schmidt’s case goes to trial this spring, his lawyer, Clayton Ruby, will challenge the constitutionality of mandatory pasteurization. In Canada, Ruby is one of those lawyers people threaten to hire in the same way people in the United States used to say they were going to hire Johnnie Cochran. He’s sure to argue eloquently, but the judge’s decision on milk will leave unanswered the larger question of how we should mend relations with our microbial friends. The court won’t tell us whether raw milk is good for people or how Schmidt has managed to distribute it for twenty-five years without making anyone sick. Someday scientists may answer these questions. But until then, we will have to conduct our own calculations to determine what constitutes clean and healthy food.

When I sat at Schmidt’s breakfast table early one morning, glass in hand, I understood the possible consequences of my choice. All the competing science was there, along with the stories of epic sickness I’d heard. And I have to confess, the thought crossed my mind that if I got sick it would make a hell of a story. But when it comes down to it, here’s why I drank the raw milk. The sun had just come up, and we’d already finished three hours of work in the barn. I was filled with a righteous hunger. The table was laden with eggs from the chickens, salami from the pigs, jarred fruit, steaming porridge, cheese, and yogurt. Although dairy isn’t for everyone, I come from the people of the udder: my ancestors relied so heavily on milk that they passed down a mutation allowing me to digest lactose. For many generations my forefathers sat down to meals like this after the morning milking. It felt unambiguously right.

This, of course, is the very definition of bias: the conflation of what feels right with what is scientifically correct. But as it was, I could only hope that my biases were rooted in something more than nostalgia. Perhaps they were. The way a place feels won’t tell you anything about whether bacteria have breached the wall of sanitation, but it does reveal something about the overall health of an ecosystem. Humans have relied on such impressions to assess the quality of their food for most of history. Someday the uncertainties of dietary science will fall to manageable levels, but until then I will rely on my gut. I drained my cup and poured thick clabbered milk and apple syrup on my porridge. If any bacteria disagreed with my body, the conflict was too small to detect.