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By Clara Antonenko October 18, 2022 7 min read
Reviewed by Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS
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Among many responsibilities and tough decisions that new parents face is choosing a baby formula. Not only are there countless brands, but also several different types of formula - such as milk-based formulas like cow and goat, or plant-based, such as soy or rice formula.
Cow milk tends to be the most widely used, but there are many great options on the baby formula market with unique qualities that accommodate a range of dietary needs. Cow's milk formula has been the go-to formula, probably because it is the most known, easiest to find in stores, and most popular among other parents and therefore assumed to be the safest and most nutritional.
But is it really? Cow formulas may be the most popular choice in the United States, Europe, and the rest of the western world. But in other parts of the globe, goat milk is the preferred choice.
So, let's look closer at what goat milk has to offer by asking questions like...is goat milk infant formula safe for babies? Is it a good cow's milk alternative? Does it have any unique benefits? Could it be harmful at all or cause any problems for little ones? Keep reading to find out.
Let's begin by looking at the composition of both kinds of milk. Goat milk and cow milk do differ a bit in micro-and macronutrient composition. They have slightly different milk protein and fat structures and contain different levels of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, although in the baby formula, this does not make a difference.
All baby formulas are adjusted in composition to provide babies with everything that their growing body needs, and aim to mimic breast milk as closely as possible. Even though cow's milk contains more vitamin B12 and folic acid, and goat milk has more calcium, potassium, and vitamin A, both cow's and goat's milk formulas are fortified with all the important micro-nutrients to help formula-fed babies grow and develop.
This means that all formulas contain more or less the same optimized blend. The same is true for the casein-to-whey protein ratio, which differs in cow and goat milk. The different stages of formulas are adjusted to mirror the protein ratio of breast milk at the respective age of the baby.
There are two main types of beta-casein protein found in milk, these are A1 and A2 beta-casein. One benefit of goat's milk is that it 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 more similar to human breast milk 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! Goat milk protein is lower in allergens. However, goat milk and cow milk do share enough similarities that babies who have a cow's milk protein allergy may also have an allergic reaction to goat's milk.
Another difference is that goat milk proteins form a softer and more easily digestible curd in the stomach. Cow milk, on the other hand, forms a harder curd that lays heavier in the stomach. This is another factor that can make goat milk easier to digest.
The fat structure in goat milk is quite similar to that of cow's milk, with a few minor differences. The fats in goat's milk can be broken down by the body more easily because it contains more medium-chain fatty acids (as opposed to more long-chain fatty acids in cow milk). This means that goat milk may be easier to digest and gentler on the tummy.
Goat milk products also naturally contain more essential omega 6 fatty acids, although as mentioned above in infant formula, this doesn't play an important role, because it is among the ingredients that are being fortified in the composition.
In a nutshell, goat milk formula is just as nutritious and wholesome as cow milk formula but in some cases may be better for your baby's digestion and cause less irritation. If your baby has a diagnosed or suspected allergy to cow milk always consult your pediatrician prior to making any dietary changes.
Goat milk baby formula is a nutritional choice that contains everything your baby needs, from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to vitamins and minerals.
Take a look at the ingredient list before choosing any formula. All goat milk formulas are adjusted in composition to mimic breast milk and therefore do not vary much in the main ingredients, but you should always avoid formulas with unnecessary or potentially harmful ingredients such as refined sugar, corn syrup, or preservatives.
To ensure your baby receives only the best and highest quality, we recommend choosing organic. This way you can be sure that the ingredients are produced under appropriate standards and are free of pesticides and GMOs.
Let's take a deeper look at the ingredients in some of our favourite goat milk formulas!
Holle's goat milk formula was created with sensitive tummies in mind. This organic formula is formulated with A2 goat milk protein and is packed full of nutrients like vitamins A, D, and E, minerals, and essential fatty acids (DHA and ARA). Not only does this formula contain simple beneficial ingredients that support development, but it is also free from GMOs, artificial sweeteners, and other unwanted additives.
This gentle formula is a great alternative to cow's milk formula. HiPP’s goat milk formula is made with naturally mild organic skimmed goat’s milk, as well as lactose, and vegetable oils.
Similar to breastmilk, HiPP’s goat milk formula contains prebiotics and probiotics which help digestion. This formula also contains DHA (Omega-3) and ARA (Omega-6) to support brain development and visual acuity, as well as many other nutrients like vitamins A, D, and E.
Jovie formulas contain organic whole goat’s milk and are made without the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, or GMOs. Jovie formulas are also free from additives like palm oil or maltodextrin and contain many healthy nutrients like fatty acids (DHA & AA) lutein, prebiotics, Vitamin E, C, D3, and iron.
Premichevre is formulated for smoother digestion with mild organic whole goat’s milk, vegetable oils, lactose, and complimentary carbohydrates. It is free from soy and gluten and contains many beneficial nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, minerals, and essential fatty acids (DHA and ALA). The DHA in this formula is sourced from algae making it fish-oil-free.
Goat milk formula will supply your baby with all the nutritious ingredients they need for healthy development. However, there are still cases where goat milk is not a suitable formula choice.
Goat milk formulas are not safe for babies with a diagnosed cow's milk allergy, as goat milk-based formulas can also cause allergic reactions in children with a milk protein allergy.
When it comes to lactose intolerance, goat milk may or may not be an alternative for your baby. Goat milk does contain less lactose; however, the difference is not significant enough to always make it a suitable choice. This mostly depends on the severity of the intolerance. You should always check with your pediatrician before choosing any type of formula.
Generally, goat milk in its original plain form is not appropriate for infants younger than 1 year. You should always avoid feeding milk directly to infants because it is lacking essential vitamins and minerals and contains levels of macro-nutrients that cannot be digested properly at a young age and cause illness. Therefore, feeding plain goat milk and cow milk to infants before they are ready is unsafe.
Infant formulas are a great choice because they are adjusted in composition to make sure they're healthy, nutritious, and safe. After the 1st birthday, babies may start to drink goat milk, as part of a balanced mixed diet with solid foods and in moderation.
While goat's milk formula is not suitable for babies with a milk protein allergy or severe lactose intolerance, it is still gentler on most tummies which means that there are a number of circumstances where this type of formula may be favoured.
In the following cases, trying goat's milk to alleviate digestive discomfort may be beneficial, but should be done following the advice of your pediatrician. Goat's milk formula may be a great option for babies who are experiencing the following:
In conclusion: Yes, goat milk infant formula is perfectly safe for your baby - if there is no present diagnosis of a cow milk allergy or severe lactose intolerance. It can be a great alternative for cow milk baby formulas because it is extra gentle on the tummy while being just as nutritious and yummy as cow's milk. Infants may benefit from a gentler formula because they have much more sensitive tummies.
Goat milk formulas contain all the nutrients that your baby needs to grow up healthy. Before deciding on a formula, you should check the ingredients list to make sure you are avoiding unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients such as refined sugar and preservatives.
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies, it is in no way 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 prior to making any decisions about your child's diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Disclaimer: 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.
We hope this article helps you decide whether goat milk formula may be the right choice 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.
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Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University.
Dr. Hsu did research in MRI neuroimaging research of fetal brains at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hsu is currently a full-time medical writer and consultant.
Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel