Sunday, December 15, 2013

Goat Milk Formula??

As I talked about in my last post, most of the formula choices available today have the capacity to induce food allergies, are nutritionally very far away from human milk, and even the organic choices are riddled with additives that were far from ideal, like the palm oil that forms soaps in the baby's gut and neurotoxic solvent-extracted/synthesized stuff like DHA, lycopene, and lutein.

So here I was, literally wringing my hands. I then remembered a book I had read a long time ago where a monk used goat milk to feed an abandoned baby. Historically, whenever the mother's milk was not available, goats milk was maybe the first choice. Based on that very vague memory, I started to search for goat milk-based formulas.

I was very pleasantly surprised. Goat milk use in baby formulas appears to be a  growing trend. There are two formula brands (Holle's in Germany and  KaniKare in Australia) that manufacture goat milk-based formulas, but both, to different degrees, suffer from the issues mentioned above. Holle's is definitely the better choice of the two though. If I was ever going for a store-bought formula, this would be the safest option.

First, let us talk about goat milk itself:

Protein content: Its protein (and sodium content) is much higher than that of human milk, so if you gave it to your baby straight, you could create kidney problems. You have to dilute it out. But---once you dilute it, it comes pretty close. Goat milk protein apparently forms "softer curds" and is easier to digest than cow's milk. In support  of this, babies who are fed goat's milk have more frequent bowel movements than do babies fed cow's milk. Not obsessed with pooping patterns yet, but I hope that the day will arrive when this becomes one of paramount importance to me.

Fat content: Its essential fatty acid profile seems to be better than that of cow milk, but not as close to that of human milk. This is easily fixed as well.

Allergies: It has extremely low/undetectable levels of alpha-1 casein (the principal culprit behind cow milk allergies).  It does contain another protein (as does cow milk) that can trigger allergy: beta-lactoglobulin. But I'm guessing that is a much less common/severe allergy. But what this means is that a subset of babies allergic to cow's milk could also be allergic to goat's milk.

Nutrients: It has high levels of potassium and selenium. It has seriously low levels of folic acid and Vitamin B-12, so if you feed your baby this formula, you have to add these back.

In a nutshell, if you went with goat's milk formula, you would have to add back a few things and choose your proportions of water and milk powder carefully. This bit is EASY. I'd much rather whip up formula at home than go with the store-bought stuff, given what I have learnt.

This is a great recipe for a homemade goat milk formula.

A good source of powdered goat's milk may be the Meyenberg brand. If you mixed this up with the coconut oil (I read up on this, it seems like a really great idea even for regular cooking), the olive oil, lactose/turbindo sugar, probiotics, and a good vitamin/mineral source (blackstrap molasses or a multivitamin), and it sounds like you would have many bases covered. In theory.

Note that you would have to add all these things back only if you were formula feeding before one year of age. After the one year mark, you could dilute the powder out less, and have to add back less as well.

Overall, what impressed me was how happy *most* parents who tried this formula sounded: read the amazon reviews and the Mt. Capra reviews (though that sounded more mixed). Overall, in most cases, the allergies were fixed, it did not smell like a chemical soup, and most people seemed to report formula guzzling and weight gain and happier babies.

So yeah...this route makes me a lot happier than the organic cow milk formula route, and it seems like something I could live with. If anybody reading tries this, please DO give feedback of how it went. Still want to try to get human milk for as long as possible.

BUT: One advantage that this presents over the human milk route--In India, I cannot eat organic, and neither can whoever acts as the wet nurse. The fruits and veggies and the milk we drink are laden with god knows what. If I went this route, it seems fairly certain that the goats would be consuming less pesticides than I currently do, if you believe Mayenberg. Got to always see the silver linings, right?

Planning all this makes me realize how badly I want to be a mommy and do mommy stuff.  Please god, let it happen.


  1. We can count on you for the research. The rest of us are praying also.

  2. Thank you so much for this post - I have to wean my daughter before she is ready - so this is just what I needed to read!

  3. Wow. Now, I'm going to be paranoid not only about the inevitability of formula for my child (with my work hours and only 12 weeks maternity leave, formula is inevitable) but also about the prenatal supplements my doctors have all prescribed containing DHA. Yikes!!! (If I took DHA throughout the first trimester, have I already harmed my baby?!?!?)

    1. Well that is about the DHA they add to formulas. If you took it prenatally, it is probably Nordic Naturals, right? They probably don't hexane-extract it (plus it is from a different source), or there probably would have been a hue and cry about it. You can find out how they do it, if it will set your mind at ease.

      And don't get worried about formula. I feel pretty good about this goat milk thing. I would not worry too much if this was what I *had* to go with. Plus, my motto is do whatever you can, but don't beat yourself up about what you cannot do/did not know about, or your own constraints.

      Lastly, human beings are hardy. They can eat hexane-processed food, corn syrup extracts, carneegan, aspartame, roundup-sprayed soy----all that crap, and the majority of them still stay mostly healthy :)

  4. Totally agree! My little girl drank this after she was one. I had low supply and I had to supplement with formula starting at 7 months. I started with Baby only organic, it was ok, but she did not grow very well (always on the skinny side, you know her :), so I assume it was the cow milk protein intolerance at fault. After she started with the goat milk she boomed. Still skinny, but no red/dark circles under her eyes. I totally recommend it, just make sure you supplement properly for a little baby (it seems you have the research done exceptionally well). For those who introduce this after formula or breast milk, in the beginning I recommend to mix the goat milk with whatever is given now, as this one stinks :). My kid adjusted in less than a week, but when we weaned her from the bottle, she refused to drink it from a glass because the smell was too strong.

    1. hahah M, it sucks if the only way we talk nowadays is through a bloody blog comment. So cool that you tried this too. I'm so confused about how it tastes/smells....some people say it smelt great and tasted so creamy and all that, and the others are holding their noses and calling it sour. Did you use the meyenberg brand? One reviewer on Amazon did talk about the batch-to batch variation, and that worries me given that I will be buying in bulk and having a gzillion cans shipped to India at one go.

  5. Ye, please god let this happen :) You are always so thorough! I love it.

  6. That sounds like a good option if formula is the route that you wind up going.

    And, thank you for your comments about Vitamin D on my most recent post. I actually take 5000IU of it daily. I had read about it a few years back (maybe from your blog), and when I had to switch to a new PCP, she was also very on top of thyroid issues and the Vitamin D connection and tested for it without me even having to ask her to do it. I was borderline, so she had me add the supplement. She's since retired, but I've stuck with it, though honestly I don't think my level has been tested again recently. I'll have to ask the RI for my most recent labs and see if they have ordered it in there.

  7. Hmmmm...I'm sort of a big proponent of being not too high nor too low. I did know that after I took 5000 iu daily for a few months after becoming replete, things got a bit wonky with fertility and the levels of my active form (1,25 hydroxy) were 86, which was very close to toxicicity. The thing with vitamin D is that it is so powerful and affects so many systems in different ways at different doses, that it should be carefully regulated. So yeah, may be a good idea to check, if only to dial it back for a bit. I would'nt think you would have to take any more.

  8. "the palm oil that forms soaps in the baby's gut"

    Excuse me, what?! Please cite some kind of credible evidence for this utterly ludicrous claim. You do realize the palm oil is included in commercial formula because of the lauric acid, which is what probably gives breastmilk antibacterial properties. News flash: palm oil is GOOD for you. You are railing against some of what makes formula very good for babies.

    "Allergies: It has extremely low/undetectable levels of alpha-1 casein (the principal culprit behind cow milk allergies). It does contain another protein (as does cow milk) that can trigger allergy: beta-lactoglobulin. But I'm guessing that is a much less common/severe allergy. But what this means is that a subset of babies allergic to cow's milk could also be allergic to goat's milk."

    Oh. My. God. You have utterly no business speaking of food allergies. Your "advice" could kill someone. I have news for you: over 90% of people allergic to cow milk are also allergic to goat milk. What you said here could not possibly be more incorrect. This is an actual doctor--you know, someone actually QUALIFIED to give MEDICAL ADVICE about food allergies, re: goat milk for cow milk-allergic people:

    PLEASE remove this horribly irresponsible post before you kill some poor innocent allergic baby. Bloggers like you who have it out for commercial formula are just harming more women and children by your completely unbacked, unscientific, dangerously wrong claims.

    1. You need to calm down...badly so.

      Palm oil is included for the palmitic acid, which is also found in breast milk, not the lauric acid.

      Btw, coconut oil is an excellent source for the lauric acid, which is part of the Mt. Capra goat milk formula

      Here is some science for you: Different sources in nature have slightly different versions of palmitic acid. Here is a pubmed article talking about how different palmitic acids have different effects on calcium absorption, and how some of them DO form soaps in the baby's gut.

      I got my information indirectly from the below link. The woman who wrote it has a degree in Nutrition and is the director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organisation that is an organic food industry watchdog. It looks like she was probably quoting the above journal article when she talked about the palmitic acid from palm oil being different from the palmitic acid found in human milk, and how the the palmitic acid from palm oil may cause the "soaps"

      So, yes, there is a scientific source for that. Next we will address your rants on allergies.

    2. As for allergies, yes, beta-lactoglobulin in goat's milk could be allergenic. However, allergy development and regulation is an incredibly complex process, especially when you talk about about food allergies. Importantly, a lab test to test for food allergy does not give the complete picture, because the biological process behind food allergy development in the gut mucosa is insanely complex. Thinking that you can accurately predict food allergy incidence, severity, and manifestations based on only laboratory parameters such as IgE levels is shortsighted and foolish. You have to look at the symptoms and how the potential food allergen is tolerated.

      This is what Dr. Sears (a certified pediatrician) says too, when he mentions that what mothers experience with goat milk tolerance does not correlate with the clinical testing results. He suggests a goat milk formula as an alternative to children with cow milk allergies.

      Here is some common sense: finding the right formula for your child is a matter of trial and error. Yes, absolutely, some children that are allergic to cow's milk may also be allergic to goat's milk. Others may not be.

      In response to your ridiculous statement: “Your "advice" could kill someone,” I will say this: babies do not instantly die of food allergies.
      Anaphylactic shock (the only form of an allergy that is life threatening) is extremely rare in response to milk proteins. Yes there is a documented instance of it, but it would be the the extremely rare exception, not the norm. Most milk allergies manifest as colic/eczema/bloody stools.

      If a parent tries goat milk and discovers intolerance, he/she should move on to the next option. Parents will not sit there forcing goat milk down their children’s throats just because it worked for somebody else.

      Furthermore, many of the people who found and use the goat's milk formula are the ones whose babies have suffered like crazy with the cow's milk formula, who then tried soy, and then moved on to stuff like Enfamil, and finally, in desperation, tried goat milk.

      See the below reviews, many by parents whose children had varying degrees of cow milk formula allergy:

      I have read all the reviews on Amazon and on the Mt Capra site; in all, it comes to maybe over 400 parents talking about this. There are a few people who found that their children still showed signs of allergy after switching to goat’s milk. For the majority, however, the symptoms of food allergy and intolerance (colic, eczema, bloody stools) went away, and their babies thrived.

      In other words, your 90% statistic of sensitivity is baseless when you move into real life, because most babies with cow milk allergy seem to do well on goat milk, symptoms, comfort, and growth-wise.

      Only around 2% of all infants may develop a true milk allergy, FYI.

      Allergies aside, goat milk is more easily digestible than cow milk, and that is an important factor.

      Additionally, goat milk is now approved as a milk source in formulas in Europe and other places. That is why they can manufacture goat-milk based formulas in Europe and Australia.

      Finally, on this blog site, you are welcome to present a view contrary to mine, as long as you do it calmly and rationally. Ranting in an irrational manner will not be tolerated. So unless you master rationality and reasonable debate, do not bother replying, because if it is the same mad, angry vein as the previous comment, I will delete it faster than you can say “goat.”