Motherhood is a roller coaster. In one moment it’s light and fun- then super hard and messy, followed by overwhelming yet incredible. Let’s be real, it changes you -- inside and out. You suddenly worry about things you never worried about before, overanalyze what seems like…. well, everything, deal with mom-guilt on the daily, and learn to ration your energy because you can’t do it all. Things are always changing, and you’re constantly wondering if you’re doing things “right” or “wrong”.
(P.S. You’re doing amazing and are a wonderful mama!)
WELCOME TO MOM-LIFE (AND CUE THE JUDGEMENT)
Everyone has differing opinions on the best way to “mom”, whether that’s co-sleeping or sleep training, breastfeeding and/or formula, going back to work, or becoming a SAHM… all the things.
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When I became a mom, I had everything all planned out. How quickly (and painfully) I learned to loosen the reins and go more with the flow.
The one thing that seemed relatively simple was how I planned to feed my daughter, Della -- I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My mom had nursed all of her kiddos, and I knew breastmilk was naturally the most nutritious option. I wanted the best for my baby. I attended a bunch of La Leche League meetings while pregnant and was prepared to be surprised by my breastfeeding journey. And I definitely was!
I had romanticized thoughts of how simple it would be, how full of joy I would feel while bonding during feedings, and how my breastfeeding journey would last until she was like three years old. I didn’t think much about weaning, because I figured it would be far down the road. Honestly, I was more worried about how to convince her to wean when I was ready, like when she was going off to college (kidding...mostly!).
MY BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY
BUT, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult my own breastfeeding journey would be. I never imagined I would face SO MANY issues. Like motherhood, in general, you never really “get it” until you’re living, breathing mom-life and in the thick of it yourself. Out of all the things that affected my breastfeeding journey, here were some of the main ones that contributed to my reduced milk supply:
- Having an unplanned C-section, undiagnosed postpartum sleep apnea, and delayed letdown
- Della had a stage 4 lip tie which caused major latch problems. For me, that meant vasospasm, blistered, raw nipples and so much pain. I used a nipple shield at every feeding for 5 months to make things less painful for me and easier for Della.
- Experiencing postpartum anxiety, also known as PPA, (before I knew that was a “thing”). I realized I had it after googling the symptoms in the middle of the night. The next morning, I spoke to my husband about what I was experiencing, and we made plans for better mama self-care.
- PPA-induced insomnia had me struggle with nursing or pumping at night.
- Stress at the thought of going back to work and juggling being a new mom and CEO at the same time.
- Della weaned early at nine months and the avalanche of mom guilt and hormones afterward. I felt like a failure.
I felt SO guilty that I couldn’t be the only source of food for my baby. It haunted me and caused my anxiety and stress to get even worse. I’m tearing up as I write this, so I guess some of the trauma is still with me. I absolutely hated the options for formulas on the market. They all contained junky or low-nutrition ingredients I couldn’t imagine feeding Della- or even myself. These ingredients were on the No list for our household, and I couldn’t stand the thought of feeding them to my little baby just starting her precious life.
LET’S TALK INGREDIENTS (THE ONES I DIDN’T LIKE)
Why did I have such an issue with the formula options on the market?
- Only a few were made with organic ingredients
- Even the organic ones choose cheaper, lower-quality ingredients like skim milk versus whole, cheap carbs like corn syrup, rice syrup, and maltodextrin versus lactose, and processed industrial seed oils rather than fats from nutritious, whole foods.
- They contained synthetic folic acid and vitamin B12
- I also had an issue with the ingredients they leave out: fiber, DHA, ARA, galactooligosaccharides, HMOs, and nucleotides.
When I eventually needed to supplement, I first turned to donor milk from my friends and family [read about that experience here; literally six moms fed my baby]. I was really lucky this was an option for us thanks to safe, trusted sources.
MY FORMULA FEEDING JOURNEY
I did tons of research but ultimately had to choose the least of the evils. I ended up alternating between a European formula and a US-based toddler formula so my baby could get a mix of what was best (and worst) from each brand. I didn’t like that the European formula contained synthetic folic acid, maltodextrin, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil. My biggest issue with the toddler formula was the sources of fats (industrial seed oils) and carbs (tapioca starch).
Europe has higher standards for infant formula, and I felt grateful to have access to them. I chose a German goat milk brand, which Della seemed to like ok. The problem was that I couldn’t read the powder-to-water ratio instructions. I had to look for them online when my mom-brain forgot, which was more often than I would have liked. I stressed out each time I had to teach a babysitter the right measurements. Also, for about a month, I fed Della the wrong stage of formula because it took me that long to realize she had graduated up a stage. I felt terrible. I was also nervous about giving her the European formula because I had bought it online from a website, and I wasn’t sure the product had been properly handled, etc.
I was super nervous to feed her a toddler formula until I watched a video on YouTube about a mom who fed Baby’s Only, a toddler formula, to her 10-month-old son. She explained a lot of the FDA regulations around infant and toddler formulas. The FDA regulates infant formula by setting 29 nutrient ranges, mandating all ingredients to be Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), inspecting infant formula manufacturing facilities, and requiring clinical trial feeding studies. The toddler formula I fed Della met the 29 nutrients, was produced in an infant formula facility and contained GRAS ingredients. The only thing it lacked was clinical trials, which is a big barrier to entry for small companies. Another thing that gave me confidence was reading parent comments about how their babies did great with toddler formula.
Della drank both of these formulas as well as a liver-infused bone broth (learn why we love bone broth for toddlers here) plus occasional raw goat’s milk from 9 months to around 15 months old. After that, I switched her to 100% raw goat’s milk.
I wanted to do better. Someone needed to do better.
I set out to create something PACKED with nutrition and without toxins- that I would feel super happy feeding my own daughter. Something kiddos could easily digest and actually want to drink because it tastes so good. Something parents and caregivers could all trust. Something that gives moms a break from all the guilt and allows more serenity into their lives (← see what we did there :)
NONE OF THE JUNK
I wanted to create something with organic, high-quality ingredients- something without toxins or the cheap, low-quality ingredients found in other formulas.
But it was super intimidating and I had no idea where to start. I also knew that dipping our toes into the formula market was risky. There were a lot of barriers like regulatory standards, research, and of course, cost. We’d have to play nice with Big Formula corporations who make it difficult for small businesses. At this point, I was not only a business owner but also a new mom. The pressure was on.
I was creating a “formula wish list” one night when I remembered that my girl crush, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, M.D. (aka “The Paleo Mom''), might be the perfect person to help me set my idea into motion. If not, I could at least confess my dream to someone I knew would give me her honest feedback.
MEET MY GIRL CRUSH (AND BADA$$ SCIENTIST), DR. SARAH BALLANTYNE, PH.D.
I had first seen Dr. Sarah Ballantyne speak at Paleo f(x) in 2016; prior to that, I had only stalked her online via Instagram and her amazingly brilliant blog. Later that year, a mutual friend and entrepreneur introduced Sarah to me as a potential business advisor, and she has been advising Serenity Kids ever since! She is an incredible scientist, writer, and wholehearted mama.
It felt like a miracle when Sarah said she was IN for the formula project after turning down multiple other offers. *total pinch-me moment*. I knew that with her skill set, nutritional alignment, and partnership, my dream of making a better formula might actually become reality.
Sarah studied over 200 research papers on breastmilk to distill the ideal nutrient profile from breastmilk into a 4-page document- from fatty acid profile to fortifications. Then we could determine what could actually be produced in a powdered formula that was as close to breastmilk as possible.
Once we had our dream nutritional profile ready, the big question was, “Now, how the heck do we make it??”
THE PROCESS & JOURNEY
We hired a cutting-edge lab with a team of expert food scientists and began sourcing our high-quality ingredients.
The source of the milk was near and dear to my heart. I knew that most dairy farms aren’t great for the environment or for the cows themselves. Miracle #2 was finding a regenerative dairy farm that produced organic, A2 whole milk powder! Nestled between towering coastal redwoods and the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find Alexandre Family Farm, which supplies the A2/A2 organic whole milk found in our A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula.
Once we found the milk source, the last big piece of the puzzle was to find a factory to produce it. That might have been the toughest part because Big Formula uses most of the formula manufacturing capacity in the US.
But yet again, another miracle happened! I’m thrilled with our manufacturing partner who has a state-of-the-art factory and robust quality processes. The icing on the cake (grain-free and low-sugar, of course) is their shared mission to revolutionize the formula industry and offer healthier products for children.
We had many smaller hurdles with testing, producing, canning, and eventually getting this product to market, and I’m happy to say those are in our rearview mirror.
We wanted to make a toddler formula with cleaner, whole-food-based ingredients that moms could find in the United States. So, we created the new Serenity Kids A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula. It was developed by a team of moms and provides a well-rounded balance of nutrients to support growth and development -- with upgraded ingredients moms and dads can trust.
OUR A2 WHOLE MILK TODDLER FORMULA: WHAT’S INSIDE
Our A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula is crafted with ingredients we are proud of like organic whole milk, A2 protein, nutrient-rich fats, high-quality carbs, DHA, ARA, HMOs, nucleotides, and superior vitamin sources.
ORGANIC WHOLE MILK
Our whole milk is organic, but that’s not even half of it. It’s sourced from grass-fed cows on a regenerative & sustainable farm, Alexandre Family Farm, which is known for its quality, ethical practices, and superior testing. Almost all other formulas contain nonfat milk. I can’t wrap my head around why, as little ones need fats to grow, and what better primary fat source than milk!?
A2 PROTEIN VS. A1 PROTEIN
We chose to include A2 beta-casein protein rather than A1 because many people find A2 easier to digest. One of the reasons may be because breastmilk is A2. The only time breastmilk contains any A1 proteins at all is when the mother consumes a lot of A1 dairy herself. Read more about why A2 is better HERE.
Breastmilk contains a ton of fat, which is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. One of the things that makes breastmilk so unique is its complex fatty acid profile, which is essential for developing the brain and spine. Using breastmilk as a model, our formula contains eight different sources of healthy fats to create a well-rounded fatty-acid profile. We include organic whole milk, olive oil, coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil, cocoa butter, algal oil, sunflower lecithin, and egg lecithin. Other formulas use nonfat milk and add fat through cheaper, industrial seed oils like soy, canola, higi-oleic sunflower, or palm olein. These oils often contain additives, oxidize more easily, and lack the nutritive properties of fats from whole foods. Read more about why I don’t like industrial seed oils HERE.
Nearly 40% of the calories from breastmilk are carbohydrates in the form of lactose and galactooligosaccharides. The carbs provide the energy a baby’s body needs to grow super fast. Most other formulas get their carbs from highly refined, grain-based sugars like corn syrup, rice syrup, and/or maltodextrin. In our formula, we’ve chosen lactose and galactooligosaccharides, which are both organic and derived from milk.
DHA & ARA
DHA and ARA are omegas that are key for brain and eye development. The DHA & ARA used in our A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula are both from high-quality, natural sources. We choose to use algal oil as the source of our DHA because studies show it may be more readily absorbed by the body, and our ARA comes from organic egg yolk, one of the ideal first foods for children. Most other DHA is extracted with a toxic chemical called hexane, but ours is not!
HMOs & NUCLEOTIDES
These may be some of the most important components of our product. I wanted to include HMOs and nucleotides, which are generally only found in infant formula, but not toddler formula. These are complex, essential compounds found in breastmilk that support immune and gut health. Don’t worry- the HMOs didn’t come from human milk! These ones are made in a sterile lab environment and mimic
Unfortunately, HMOs and nucleotides currently cannot be included in certified organic toddler and adult products, but they are allowed in organic infant formulas. We made the tough choice to include these important fortifications in our toddler formula even though it meant the product can’t officially be classified as organic. Because we’re all about squeezing in maximum nutrition!
Though it’s an important component of breastmilk, many formulas omit fiber altogether. Our toddler formula includes 3 prebiotics: galactooligosaccharides, Jerusalem artichoke powder, and inulin, which feed friendly bacteria in the gut to promote a healthy microbiome.
UPGRADED VITAMIN B9 (folate) and B12
One of the most troubling ingredients I found in almost all other formulas was synthetic folic acid. Folic acid has been found to harm some people with MTHFR gene variants, which both Joe and I have along with 40% of the population. Folic acid literally becomes toxic for people with that genetic makeup, and yet most other formulas contain it. Rather than folic acid, our toddler formula uses the natural form of vitamin b9 found in food, L-methylfolate. We’ve also upgraded the vitamin b12 to the natural form of methylcobalamin.
BETTER VITAMIN SOURCES
Not all vitamins are created equal, and nowadays it’s easy to create cheap, synthetic vitamin compounds in labs that look good on a nutrition label but aren’t actually bioavailable to the body. We have gone to great lengths to carefully select our vitamin sources, using natural whole food sources wherever possible.
WHY TODDLER FORMULA?
We are not allowed to recommend this product for infants. Our Toddler Formula meets FDA nutritional requirements for infant formula, however, it has not yet gone through the FDA evaluation process that is required for infant formula. So until then, we can only recommend our Grass Fed A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula for children ages 12 months and up, or as directed by a health professional.
STILL WITH ME?
If you’re still here reading and have stuck through that mini science lesson, THANK YOU. Words can’t express how happy I am to see this product come to life. I am so proud and elated we made this product available for parents and their little ones. We made this in honor of the moms, dads, and caretakers looking for better options when it comes to toddler formula. This is something I originally dreamed up for Della and for little ones all over the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have any questions. How can we support you on your mama journey even better?