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There are many challenges that come along with being a new parent and choosing the right formula for your little one is one of them. While it is a blessing to have so many products available on the baby formula market today, it can make choosing a formula feel a little daunting.
As you've probably spent some time researching the different kinds of formula available, you're likely to have come across some pros and cons for each type, from cow's milk, to hypoallergenic and more. There is a lot of information out that and it can be overwhelming, especially with the information updating as we evolve to better understand the science of infant nutrition.
A topic you've probably come across is the difference between cow's and goat's milk formula, which can be confusing. Therefore, we have decided to create a detailed and easy to follow guide on the differences between goat milk and cow milk-based formulas, based on the latest science.
Whether you are a parent struggling to decide on the right formula or simply interested in learning about all the differences, this guide is for you! Keep reading to find out more about goat milk vs cow milk formula.
There is no substantial difference between the preparation of goat milk formula vs cow milk formula. The preparation will only vary based on the type of cow's or goat's milk formula you are choosing (powdered formula vs. liquid concentrate vs. ready-to-feed).
The type of milk used in these formulas will not affect the way that it is prepared. All European powdered infant formula should be mixed with water that has been boiled and then cooled down. It's always best to follow the detailed preparation instructions on the back of every box or cannister.
Cow VS Goat: Consistency, Color and Taste of Formula
Let's start by saying consistency wise the two are very similar, and both are enjoyed by babies all over the world. When it comes to colour and taste, the two differ very slightly, but both come with many health benefits.
A notable difference between the two is that goat milk tends to have a stronger flavour than cows milk. This usually is not a problem, although if you are switching from cow milk to goat milk formula and your baby is used to the taste of cow milk, it may take a while to get adjusted to the new taste. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. With consistency, they will get used to it soon enough!
Goat milk is naturally homogenized, meaning, where fresh cow milk undergoes the man-made process of homogenization so that the fat does not separate and float to the top of the milk, goat milk naturally stays consistent and smooth.
Regardless of the process, since both are homogenized, there are no substantial differences there. Cow milk contains more carotene, which makes the milk appear slightly more yellowish or cream white (goats have carotene in their diet as well, but they efficiently convert it to vitamin A).
Benefits of Cow's Milk Vs Goat's Milk
Both cow and goat milk are highly nutritious and can play an important role in the early development of your baby. Both types of formula have similar nutritive value and contain proteins, carbohydrates (lactose), fats, micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and water.
Having a more detailed look at both, they do differ in composition. Let's look at goat milk nutrition first. Goat milk nutrition value carries more calcium, potassium and vitamin A; where milk from a cow contains more vitamin B12, selenium and folic acid.
However, baby formulas are fortified to contain the perfect nutritional balance according to your baby's age: To mimic the composition of breast milk as closely as possible, both goat and cow milk offers formula that includes the perfect blend of minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium) and vitamins (such as vitamin A, B12, K). This means that cow and goat milk formulas do not vary much in nutritional value.
Let's take a deeper look at the cow and goat milk composition.
The fat content in cow and goat milk are similar. Still, goat milk may be easier to digest and gentler on the tummy. Goat's milk has more medium-chain fatty acids than cow milk which are more rapidly absorbed by the body compared to long-chain fatty acids, which are present in higher numbers in cow's milk.
Goat milk products also naturally contains more essential Omega 6 fatty acids. In infant formula this doesn't play an important role, because it is among the ingredients that are being fortified in the composition.
Cow and goat milk both contain a mixture of two main types of milk protein: Whey and casein. Casein is a bigger and more complex protein and makes up about 80% of the total protein structure of cow milk.
In human breast milk, the ratio of casein to whey is much less. It varies during different lactation periods, from about 20:80 down to basically 50:50. This is why in infant formula, the protein ratio is adjusted by the manufacturers to mimic the composition of breast milk adjusted to the stages of life.
Just as breast milk in early lactation periods, pre and stage 1 formulas contain a higher ratio of whey because it is easy on the tummy. Babies aren't born with a fully developed digestive system.
Therefore, the contents of formula are always adjusted appropriately to the baby's age. Later stages (when your little one already has a more developed stomach that can process more complex foods) contain a higher content of casein.
In addition, there are two main types of beta-casein protein found in milk, these are A1 and A2 beta-casein. Goat milk is naturally A2 and better suited to sensitive tummies whereas most cow's milk is A1 and can in some cases cause inflammation in the body.
Goat milk's protein profile is closer to human breastmilk because it's A1 casein-free and no BCM-7 is produced during digestion. That means goat milk is extra safe for your baby's stomach!
A beneficial feature of goat's milk is that the protein is particularly easier to digest. In the stomach it forms a light and soft curd, which can be digested with ease and does not lay heavy in the stomach. Cow's milk protein, on the other hand, tends to form a heavy and firm curd. From this example alone, it is easy to see the digestive benefits of goat's milk protein.
Cow's milk contains various different allergens that can be seen by the body as "invaders" and thus cause allergic reactions. Goat milk protein, on the other hand, is lower in allergens.
The presence of allergens in cow's milk should not be of any concern to you if your baby does not show any symptoms or negative reactions to cow milk. However, if you do suspect that there may be an issue regarding cow milk allergies, such as a minor sensitivity, goat milk formula can be an alternative because it has less allergenic properties.
However, for a diagnosed or suspected cow's milk allergy, having your baby instead consume goat milk formula is not an appropriate alternative as the similarity of the milks can evoke an allergic reaction. Always consult your pediatrician first when deciding on infant formulas or making any change to your baby's diet.
Lactose is a type of sugar and the main carbohydrate found in cow and goat milk. Even though it is contained in both types of milk, goat milk has less lactose, and therefore less sugar. Be sure to ask your doctor if goat formula is right for your child before making any changes. You can find more detailed information about this in the next section about milk intolerance.
Lactose Intolerance + Sensitivity
Babies who suffer from milk intolerance cannot fully digest lactose, the carbohydrates in cow's and goat milk. The result may be an uncomfortable feeling, bloating, and flatulence or stomach pain after consuming milk or eating milk products.
Lactose/ milk intolerance is widespread throughout the world and a common diagnosis in children. Even though it is not a dangerous or life-threatening condition, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing. Therefore, parents of babies with the diagnosis or at the risk of suffering from milk intolerance are often in search of alternatives to cow milk baby formula.
If you suspect that your baby is lactose intolerant, signs you can look out for include:
Excessive crying (especially after feeding)
Nausea / vomiting
Bloating and gas
Cow Milk Allergy
Cow milk is one of the most common allergies. Where milk intolerance is a digestive issue caused by lactose (milk sugar), cow milk allergy is actually an immune response to the protein contained in milk.
Symptoms of milk protein allergy usually develop between 2 and 4 weeks of age and almost always appear within the first 6 months of life. If you suspect a milk protein allergy in your child, indications you can look out for may include:
Abdominal pain (can be indicated via excessive crying or irritability, especially directly after feeding)
Eczema and rashes
For children with cow and dairy allergy there are alternative formula options. There have been several studies on the suitability for goat milk formula for babies with diagnosed cow milk allergy which found that goat milk is not an appropriate alternative.
Even though the protein structures in cow and goat milk differ, cross-reactions between their allergens are likely to occur, and a large number of children that react to cows milk protein will also react to goat milk protein. Therefore if a baby is allergic to cow milk, they will most likely be allergic and should not consume goat milk as well.
Both cow and goat milk formula will fulfill your baby's nutritional needs to guarantee a safe and healthy start into life. Due to the fact that infant formulas aim to imitate human breast milk as closely as possible, cow and goat milk baby formula are both fortified in a way that results in them having similar nutritional composition.
If your baby shows signs of discomfort or negative reactions to cow's milk (and no cow milk allergy is diagnosed or suspected), goat milk formula can be a good option, as it tends to be more easily digestible and gentler on the tummy. However, before choosing a formula or switching formulas, you should always contact your pediatrician.
Quick Recap Questions:
Which is the healthiest milk for babies?
Both goat milk and cow milk infant formula are healthy and nutritious for your baby so long as your baby does not have a diagnosed or suspected cow's milk allergy or severe lactose intolerance. We recommend choosing an organic formula like Holle Formula to give your baby a formula made with high quality ingredients.
Is goat milk baby formula closer to breast milk?
Both cow and goat milk infant formula aim to be as closely composed to human breast milk as possible. All European formula manufacturers must follow strict guidelines as to which ingredients have to be included in what amount. Therefore, the milk in all formulas is being fortified with all the important nutrients and the nutritional value of goat milk and cow milk formulas is similar.
Is goat milk formula an alternative for babies with cow milk allergies?
No. For babies diagnosed with cow milk allergy, goat milk is not an option because it contains the same proteins as cow milk. However, babies that show some symptoms of discomfort or negative reactions to cow's milk (that do not have an allergy diagnosed or suspected), goat milk formula may be a good option.
Due to several factors (different protein composition, more easily digestible fats) goat milk formula may be less allergic and easier on your baby's tummy. Always consult your pediatrician first when making changes to your baby's formula.
Why is goat milk formula more easily digestible?
Goat milk can be absorbed by the body more easily for a few reasons. The main differences are protein and fat structure. Even though the fat content is similar in both types of milk, goat milk naturally contains smaller fat molecules that can be broken down more quickly.
Where cow milk has more long-chain fatty acids, goat milk has a higher content of medium-chain fatty acids that can be digested more rapidly. As for proteins, the proteins in goat milk form more of a light and soft curd in the stomach, which can be digested with ease. Cow milk proteins form more of a harder and heavier curd.
Additionally, cow's milk contains more known allergens mainly the protein alpha-s1-casein. Goat milk contains only 11% of the content of this protein compared to cow milk, and thus has generally less allergens.
Is goat milk baby formula an alternative for babies with lactose intolerance?
It depends on the baby and the severity of the intolerance! Goat milk naturally contains less lactose and therefore may be a good alternative for babies with very mild (not severe) milk intolerance. If you are suspecting lactose intolerance, before deciding to make a switch to goat milk formula you should see your pediatrician.
How do I know that my baby may not tolerate cow formula well?
Some symptoms to look out for are discomfort (irritability, excessive crying) after feeding, diarrhea, regular nausea and vomiting, bloating and gas. Even skin problems like eczema and rashes can be signs of a bad reaction to cow's milk. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult your pediatrician to determine the cause and the appropriate next steps for your baby.
What can I do if I suspect my baby doesn't tolerate cow formula?
It's always best to consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns about the formula you are using. A switch to goat milk based formula may be a good option for you if your baby is having some tummy problems or other undesirable reactions to cow's milk but for other babies it's not a suitable alternative.
Can I switch from cow to goat milk formula?
Yes! If you are switching from cow to goat it may take a bit longer for your baby to get adjusted, as goat milk has a stronger taste. But they will get used to it and enjoy it just as much soon enough! Please always consult your pediatrician first before switching formulas.
We hope this article helps you decide on which may be the best organic baby formula for your little one's organic start in life. If you need further guidance, please contact our customer support team. We are happy to help! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don't miss all the newest information about our formulas.
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.
Dr. Agustina Fernandez earned her medical degree from the prestigious Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina. With a deep-rooted passion for pediatrics, Dr. Fernandez is currently on the path to specializing in children's healthcare. Recently, she has delved into the vital field of infant nutrition. Her research interests include breastfeeding, infant formula, and baby food in little ones’ formative years. Dr. Fernandez's commitment to this area of study underscores her dedication to ensuring the health and well-being of children from their earliest days.