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

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Is goat milk safe?  Image by Stefan Kühn.

Is goat milk safe for babies? Image by Stefan Kühn.

Goat’s Milk Benefits

Studies on goat’s milk have shown three benefits of goat milk over cow milk.

Goat milk fat may be more easily digested, the fatty acids provide energy in children and help regulate cholesterol metabolism, and goat milk may help treat patient’s suffering from various forms of malabsorption and other conditions such as cystic fibrosis, gallstones, prematurity, and childhood epilepsy.

Goat milk may also be helpful in anemia.

When anemic rats were treated with goat milk versus cow milk, by researchers in 2002, the rats receiving goat milk showed greater absorption and improvement in iron levels than the rats treated with cow milk.

Goat milk has shown to buffer the addition of acid in the stomach better than cow milk.

In studies of the buffering capabilities of goat vs. cow milk, the goat milk showed less change in pH than cow milk when acid was added.

Cow-Milk-Based Formula Substitutes for Babies

Soy milk is often substituted for cow’s milk in the US, when infants cannot tolerate cow milk. However, 20-50% of these infants will exhibit similar intolerance symptoms to the soy milk as well.  Other options are goat milk, buffalo milk, rice milk and almond milk.

Which Infant Formula is Best?

After reviewing the limited studies on the nutritional benefits of goat and cow milk, the research seems divided in its results. For very young children, and infants under 6 months of age, dedicated infant formula appears to be the safest and most nutritional option; there are just not enough studies on goat milk conducted in this age group. Infant formula is regulated by the USDA and balanced for the nutritional needs of a growing infant. Both the US and England seem in agreement that neither goat nor cow milk is appropriate for this age group.

After 6 months of age, however, the jury is out. Any non-formula fed child should receive a basic multi-vitamin in addition to whatever milk source a parent chooses, which will eliminate any vitamin or mineral deficiencies in the milk source. After six months, there is no research that supports intervention in the case of a parent who does not choose a ‘USDA approved’ formula to feed their infant. Extenuating medical circumstances excluded, parents should be allowed to feed their child as they determine is best for their family.

Resources:

Wave 3 News. Baby’s mother in trouble with state over homemade goat’s milk formula. (2013).  Accessed August 18, 2013.

Barrionuevo, M; Alferex, MJM, et al.  Beneficial Effect of Goat Milk on Nutritive Utilization of Iron and Copper Malabsorption Syndrome. (2002). Journal of Dairy Science. Accessed August 18, 2013.

Bee, Peta.  Should you switch to goats’ milk?  Fans claim it’s less fattening, packed with vitamins and won’t trigger allergies. (2012). Daily Mail, UK.  Accessed August 18, 2013.

Fankhauser, David B. Comparison of Nutritional Content of Various Milks. (1999). University of Cincinnati. Accessed August 18, 2013.

Haenlein, G.F.W. Goat Milk in Human Nutrition. (2004). Small Ruminant Research. Accessed August 18, 2013.

Park, Young W. and Haenlein, George F.W. Therapeutic and Hypoallergenic Values of Goat Milk and Implication of Food Allergy. (2008). Handbook of Milk of Non-Bovine Mammals.

Park, Young W.  Relative Buffering Capacity of Goat Milk, Cow Milk, Soy-Based Infant Formulas, and Commercial Nonprescription Antacid Drugs. (1991). Journal of Dairy Science.  Accessed August 18, 2013.

United States Department of Agriculture. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. (2011). Accessed August 18, 2013.

United States Department of Agriculture. Chapter 4, Infant Formula Feeding. (2007). Accessed August 18, 2013.

Editor’s Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your doctor when making nutritional choices for your infant.

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