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Alternatives to breastfeeding: The use of goats' milk in infant formula

02 September 2016
8 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 9

Abstract

The World Health Organization advocates exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant's life, to maximise the health benefits to both the infant and the mother. However, for various reasons, many women discontinue breastfeeding far earlier than this, or choose not to breastfeed at all. A range of alternatives are available for infant feeding, including formula milks based on either cows' milk or goats' milk. The introduction of goats' milk infant formula to the European market in the 21st century has sparked research into the differences between formula based on cows' and goats' milk. While goats' milk formula is not suitable for infants with cows' milk protein allergy, goats' milk may be more easily digestible than cows' milk owing to its different protein makeup.

‘The scaling up of breastfeeding to a near universal level could prevent 823 000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years and 20 000 annual deaths from breast cancer’ (Victora et al, 2016: 475). It is sensible, given such potential benefits, that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of their lives, with breastfeeding continuing up to 2 years and beyond (WHO/UNICEF, 2003). However, while the prevalence of breastfeeding at 12 months is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and parts of Latin America, most high-income countries report a prevalence of less than 20%. Victora et al (2016: 477) noted ‘important differences—e.g. between the UK (< 1%) and the USA (27%), and between Norway (35%) and Sweden (16%)’. According to Brown (2015: 57), in the UK, ‘although 81% of mothers breastfeed at birth, by 6 weeks only 55% breastfeed at all.’ In Scotland, meanwhile, only 36% breastfeed exclusively for 6 weeks or more (Bradshaw et al, 2013).

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