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Is goat milk infant formula a safe alternative to cows' milk infant formula?

02 October 2015
11 min read
Volume 23 · Issue 10

Abstract

Breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant feeding, but some mothers are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. For these mothers, it is important to have a safe alternative. Goat milk has been used for many centuries, but although goat milk formula has been used extensively in other countries for many years, in the UK it has been the tradition to use cows' milk infant formula. In 2013, in England, the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations were amended to allow the use of goat milk as a source of protein in formula milks from March 2014. Compared to cows' milk, goat milk has more similarities to human milk. The evidence-base demonstrates that the health and nutritional outcomes of babies fed a whole goat milk (80: 20) formula were equivalent to those of babies fed a whey-based (60: 40) cows' milk formula. Further, because goat milk forms softer, looser casein curds in the infant stomach, goat milk formula has certain digestibility benefits over cows' milk formula. Although goat milk formula can be either made with whole milk or whey-adjusted, there is no evidence to suggest any benefit in adding whey to goat milk formula. As a result, goat milk formula is not only a safe alternative but also has some advantages over cows' milk formula.

There is no doubt breastfeeding is the gold standard of infant feeding. There is extensive evidence of its nutritional benefits for the infant alongside health benefits for both the infant and the mother (Horta et al, 2007; Ip et al, 2007). To ensure optimal nutritional and health benefits for infants, it is highly recommended that breastfeeding should be the infant feeding method of choice, and exclusive breastfeeding should be continued for a minimum of 6 months (Department of Health, 2003; World Health Organization (WHO), 2001).

There are instances when mothers are unable to breastfeed for medical, social or psychological reasons, and require a safe alternative method of feeding the infant. The requirement for alternatives to breastfeeding is not a new phenomenon, but has existed for countless centuries. This paper is not in any way intended to undermine the importance nor the value of breastfeeding, but will: review the historical use of animal milks as an alternative method of infant nutrition when maternal breastfeeding was not possible; consider the rise in the use of infant formula milk; explore the features and advantages of goat milk formula compared with cows' milk formula; and identify the use of goat milk formula as a safe alternative when mothers are unable to breastfeed.

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