Is Goat Milk Safe For Babies? Examining Alternatives to Cow-Milk Formula

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The USDA only recommends formula which the USDA regulates. Image by ParentingPatch.

Goat milk is cheap and plentiful in rural areas throughout the US and the rest of the world.

Many mothers turn to goat’s milk when breastfeeding their infants is not an option, or they cannot afford more expensive store-bought formulas.

Should feeding an infant with goat milk be considered child-endangerment?

Goat Milk Formula: Alorah Gellerson’s Experience

Alorah Gellerson, from Brooklin, ME, started feeding her infant son Carson homemade goat milk formula when she was unable to breastfeed. Carson took well to the goat’s milk, and started growing. Unfortunately her doctor reported her unconventional choice to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and this agency threatened to take the young mom’s son away from her.

Goat Milk for Babies: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Says Goat Milk is not Recommended for Infants.

An excerpt from the USDA chapter 4 on infant formula feeding. “Goat’s milk contains inadequate quantities of iron, folate, vitamins C and D, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid to meet an infant’s nutritional needs. This milk also has a higher renal solute load compared to cow’s milk and can place stress on an infant’s kidneys. This milk has been found to cause a dangerous condition called metabolic acidosis when fed to infants in the first month of life.

The chapter also says the USDA does not recommend feeding infants whole cow’s milk, low fat or skim cow’s milk, evaporated cow’s milk, sweetened condensed milk, or soy and rice-based milk. These milks are hard on the kidneys and do not contain appropriate vitamins, which is exactly why the USDA does not recommend goat milk.

Baby Formula: What Does the USDA Recommend?

Breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for the infant but, when breast milk is not available, iron-fortified infant formula is an appropriate alternative for the infant’s first year of life.”

Formula is expensive. According to Amazon.com, infant formula can run anywhere from $1 to $3 a serving, depending on brand, and powder or liquid form. Not every parent can afford formula. Spending a summer abroad in Costa Rica, I spoke with a mother with a 14 month old son was fed no milk or formula at all, and hadn’t been since infancy. The little boy was unable to drink milk or dairy products from cows, and soy formula was too expensive, and his mom fed him with beans and rice from the age of a few weeks old.

While the United States is very different from Latin America, like this mother, parents still have to make daily decisions regarding the nutrition and welfare of their own children.

Cow Milk Intolerance

Many infants and young children cannot tolerate a protein in cow’s milk; some are allergic, some cannot consume any lactose-containing products. Some children grow out of this intolerance as their digestive tracts mature, others remain intolerant into adulthood. Symptoms of intolerance include runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting, asthma, anaphylaxis, eczema or skin rashes, chronic cough, irritable bowels and upset stomach. Once children are free from these products for several months these symptoms, if caused by the exposure to cow’s milk, usually go away. Symptoms of intolerance usually begin appearing in infants between two and four weeks of age, and no later than 6 months.

How is Goat Milk Different From Cow Milk?

Goat milk is different from cow milk. It is reported to be very easy to digest, and be very therapeutic in medicine and nutrition. The fat globules are smaller and easier to digest. Of patients allergic to cow milk, 40 to 100% can tolerate goat milk; goat milk does not contain the same protein chains as cow milk.

The analyzed content of 100 g of whole goat milk and whole cow milk are also similar. Goat milk is 4% fat, comparable to the 3.5% fat in cow milk. Goat milk is 3.2 % protein and 4.6 % carbohydrate compared to 3.5% protein and 4.9% carbohydrate in cow milk. Goat milk has 129 mg calcium, 106 mg phosphorous and 1 mg vitamin C, compared to 118mg calcium, 93 mg phosphorous and 1 mg vitamin C in cow milk.

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