There are so many choices and decisions when it comes to figuring out what’s best for our bubs. Sometimes there are so many that we don’t know where to start.
This is especially true when it comes to feeding. What should you feed your little one when they’re no longer breast-feeding? There are plenty of choices on the market, but picking the best option for your little one can be a challenge.
Obviously, milk produced by humans, for humans, is the best option for your baby; but once you choose to, or have to, find an alternative source of milk for your toddler, wouldn’t you want to choose the milk that’s the easiest to digest, has the highest amount of bioavailable nutrients and is closest in make-up to human breast-milk?
Goat Milk Formula or Cow’s Milk Formula?
Human breast milk contains a perfect mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other essential components to optimally nourish our babies. When looking for an alternative, we want to stick to this combination as closely as possible.
Casein and whey are the two main proteins in any type of milk, but the amount of each varies between animal species (including humans). The combination of these two proteins in cow’s milk is significantly different to that of human milk, however in goat’s milk the balance is similar to that in human milk.
The make-up of the casein protein also varies. Most people who are cow’s milk intolerant are actually sensitive to A1 casein; goat milk contains only A2 casein, making it, protein-wise, the closest milk to human breast milk.
Once the milk proteins reach the stomach, stomach acids get to work on it and clumps called curds are formed. The protein in goat’s milk forms a softer curd than cow’s milk thus making it much easier to digest. Only about 2 percent of goat’s milk is curd, compared to about 10 percent in cow milk, helping little bodies digest it with less irritation than cow’s milk.
While the fat content of cow’s and goat’s milk is similar, the composition of the fats is different. Goat’s milk contains a higher proportion of short and medium-chain fatty acids, whereas cow’s milk contains more of the longer-chain fatty acids.
Apart from the smaller size, fat globules in goat’s milk do not clump together upon cooling because of a lack of agglutinin, which is responsible for the aggregation of fat globules in cow’s milk. The lack of aggregation and smaller fat globules in goat milk make it easier for the digestive system to break the fats down and use them.
The vitamin and mineral content of goat’s milk and cow’s milk are fairly similar, though goat's milk contains more calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium and niacin.
On the other hand, cow's milk contains more vitamin B12 and much more folic acid. For this reason, be sure you chose a goat’s milk formulation that’s supplemented with folic acid.
As well as the slightly increased nutrient content of goat’s milk, early studies have found that nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are more easily digested and used by the body in goat’s milk than cow’s milk.
Lactose (milk sugar):
While both cow's milk and goat's milk contain the sugar lactose, goat's milk contains slightly less (4.1 percent versus 4.7 percent in cow's milk). It's possible that this is a slight advantage for kids who are lactose intolerant.
The high demand for cow’s milk in western nations has encouraged the practice of feeding cows antibiotics and hormones to increase production. In addition, the natural roaming and feeding needs of the animals cannot always be met, thus affecting the quality of milk.
Both of these factors can have a negative effect on human health. As goat farming sits on the fringes of big agriculture and the animals are generally free to roam, consuming foods natural to them, goat’s milk is not only more nutritious for you, but also generally free of chemical contamination.
Overall, goat’s milk is easily digestible by the body, better tolerated by those with lactose issues and doesn’t cause inflammation the way cow’s milk can.
It may be a great option for children who’ve moved past breastfeeding, as it contains fewer allergens than cow’s milk and more bioavailable nutrients.
About the author - Karena Tonkin
Karena is a clinical nutritionist, presenter, educator and health coach working in private practice and within the corporate sector.
Karena's private Nutritional and Environmental Medicine practice in Brighton is dedicated to the integrative and holistic care and treatment of children and adults with chronic physical, mental and behavioural conditions.
Featured in this article
Goat milk naturally supports gentle digestion & may be a good alternative for babies with sensitive tummies. Goat milk is also naturally rich in probiotics and nucleotides.