If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that whether you breastfeed your baby, supplement with formula, or go all-in on the bottle, fed is best.
That being said, if you do decide to go the bottle route, a lot of baby formulas are available.
If your baby shows signs of a cow’s milk protein allergy or sensitivity, picking the best baby formula for your little one can feel more difficult, as most baby formulas are made from cow’s milk.
While not as widely available in the United States as traditional cow’s milk formula, there are a growing number of goat milk infant formulas on the market.
In their search for alternatives to cow’s milk formulas, some parents look to these as a healthy choice. A number of research studies have been conducted internationally regarding the use of goat milk in infant formula, but very little research has yet been done in the United States.
Are there benefits to goat milk formulas for babies?
Goat milk and cow milk have many similarities, but also some noticeable nutritional differences. Some of these differences — such as larger amounts of certain vitamins and minerals and short- and medium-chain fatty acids — may be beneficial for babies. More research is needed in this area, however.
Since babies have pretty specific nutrition requirements in order to thrive, it’s very important to talk with your pediatrician to see if they recommend trying goat milk formula for your baby.
If your baby has a true milk protein allergy, unfortunately, goat milk formulas will likely still pose a problem, as the proteins are very similar. However, one 2016 review found that some people with cow’s milk allergies may tolerate goat milk formulas. Your pediatrician could have some helpful insight on whether goat milk formula would be a safe option for your baby.
If your baby is only sensitive (rather than allergic) to cow’s milk protein, is mildly lactose intolerant (very uncommon in infants), or you have other concerns about cow’s milk, there may be some benefits of goat milk formula for your baby.
One study conducted in the UK compared the nutritional composition of goat’s milk and cow’s milk. In their samples, goat’s milk typically had less lactose (a sugar found in all animal milk) than cow’s milk. This lower amount of lactose could ease digestive discomfort if your baby is lactose intolerant.
While more research is needed to see if goat milk formulas are beneficial for babies with conditions such as allergies, eczema, and acid reflux, there is research looking at the benefits of using goat milk formula in general.
A few possible benefits seen in some international research may include digestibility (compared with cow’s milk formula) and a positive effect on gut health.
One note of caution is that goat’s milk baby formulas may have a distinct taste that some babies don’t like. If your baby is consistently refusing their formula, they may be at risk for inadequate nutrition.
Health and safety notes about goat’s milk
While goat milk formula can be a safe choice, per the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies under 1 year old should never be fed plain whole milk, whether it’s from a cow or a goat. Infant digestive systems may not be ready for plain milk before then, and it’s not fortified with some necessary elements, such as iron and folic acid.
Infant formulas take some of the proteins (whey and casein), sugars (such as lactose), and fats (such as DHA and ALA) from goat’s milk or cow’s milk and reduce them to the quantities that are digestible for babies. They also add a number of vitamins, minerals, and possibly other fats (such as vegetable fats) to achieve a nutrient profile that is adequate for a young baby.
After the age of 1 year, plain whole milk may be introduced into a balanced diet for your toddler and is recommended until age 2 for brain development. Before one year, goat milk infant formulas — as approved by your pediatrician — can provide adequate nutrients for your baby.
Your pediatrician will also be able to give you advice about how to switch formulas and adverse reactions to watch for, which is especially important if your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy.
What to look for in a goat milk formula
Goat milk formula marketed as infant food and produced in the United States is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means it’s required to meet certain nutritional and safety standards.
Infant formulas must contain the right amount of protein, types of fats, and the correct amounts of more than 25 vitamins and minerals to be considered adequate nutrition for a baby up to 12 months old.
It’s very important to discuss your individual baby’s needs with your pediatrician before switching formulas. They’ll have insight into your baby’s specific digestive concerns and nutritional needs, and they help confirm the safety and nutritional value of the formula you choose.
In addition to ensuring that the formula you choose is made for infants (meaning it’s designed to meet the nutritional needs of babies under 12 months old), you’ll want to check the “use by” date to ensure ingredient freshness and potency and follow the mixing instructions exactly.
If your baby is over 12 months old and you or your pediatrician want to supplement your baby’s nutrition, there are a number of toddler goat milk formulas available as well. These may be better tolerated by toddlers than straight goat’s milk, so we will review some of the options below.
How we chose these goat milk formulas
We reviewed nutritional guidelines, scanned FDA and EC standards, and scoured reviews from parents and healthcare professionals to bring you these top goat’s milk formulas. Several are manufactured in Europe, while others are produced in the United States.
It may be harder to find goat milk formulas in grocery stores, so you may find that your best option is to order from reliable online retailers or directly from the manufacturer’s website.
ishonest Parenthood’s picks of the best goat milk formulas
Holle Goat Organic Milk Formula Stage 1
- Ingredients: whole goat milk powder, maltodextrin, lactose, vegetable oils (sunflower oil, rapeseed oil), L-choline, calcium hydroxide, algae oil2, L- cystine, calcium carbonate, magnesium chloride, vitamin C, L-tryptophan, L- tyrosine, sodium citrate, Sodium chloride, iron lactate, inositol, vitamin E, zinc sulfate, L-carnitine, niacin, pantothenic acid, copper sulfate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B2, manganese sulfate, potassium iodide, vitamin K, sodium selenite, vitamin D3, biotin, vitamin B12; contains DHA (required by law for infant formula)
- Size: 14.1 ounces (400 grams)
- Servings: approximately 25 (serving size varies depending on the age of your baby)
One popular goat milk formula choice is the three-stage line from Holle. This European-made formula has been around for 80 years and meets the rigorous EU organic food labeling requirements. That means it’s made with very high animal care standards and very high standards for the safety of raw ingredients.
It’s one of the few organic goat milk formula choices on the market, is free of palm oil (which may cause digestive issues for some babies), and has DHA added, an omega-3 fatty acid that may be important for brain and eye development.
The formula is available in three stages, for babies ages 0 to 6 months, 6 to 12 months, and over 12 months.
Nanny Care First Infant Goat Milk Formula
Another European-made formula, Nanny Care Goat Milk Infant Formula is on the pricier side (it’s also sold in larger amounts) and usually has to be ordered from specialty websites. However, it’s true infant formula and is highly rated by parents, who say it seems gentle on their baby’s tummy.
The company is well established, and in fact, helped fund some of the original research to determine the safety of goat’s milk baby formulas. This formula also avoids palm oil (which can be constipating and is not as high quality nutritionally as milk fat) and has some actual goat’s cream in it which provides a superior blend of fats more similar to those in breast milk.
Kabrita Goat-Milk Based Toddler Formula
Kabrita is a Dutch company that now has a U.S. branch for their products, so you may be able to find their formulas in some stores. You’ll notice that it’s labeled a toddler formula, which means per U.S. guidelines it should not be used for exclusive formula feeding under the age of 12 months.
However, the company claims that their toddler formula meets the FDA nutrition standards for infant formula, and many parents rave about the superior taste (or lack of yucky taste), ease of use, and availability.
Another pro for this formula is that it meets EU non-GMO requirements, which are pretty stringent regarding restrictions on the use of pesticides and additives. It also has a more similar protein composition to breast milk than some goat milk formulas, which may make it easier for some babies to digest.
If you decide this is an option you’re interested in and your baby is less than 1 year old, you should definitely review the nutrition label with your pediatrician before switching.
Designed by Nature Goats Milk Formula
This formula is made in the United States, so it’s a bit easier to find than some of our other options. It’s also organic and non-GMO, so you can feel good about the ingredients.
It’s highly rated by parents. However, it does not meet the FDA requirements for infant formula. In fact, it was recalled by the company as an infant formula. It may still be suitable as a supplement for toddlers, but not for infants.
While the simplicity and quality of the ingredients are superior to many commercial formulas, some parents reported that it has a slightly grainy texture, even when mixed. Other parents disliked the pouch-style packaging, stating that it was more difficult to use than a canister (and when you’re mixing a bottle one-handed with a screeching baby in the other arm, ease of use is a big deal).
Sammy’s Milk Goat Milk Toddler Formula
Fatty acids are a hugely important building block for the human body, especially during the first 3 years of life. We know however that not all fats are created equal. Too much of some fats can contribute to long-term disease development, while others (often called “healthy fats”) are absolutely vital for healthy brains, nervous systems, eyes, and hormones.
Sammy’s Milk Goat Milk Toddler Formula is a goat milk-based formula designed for children over 1 year. It is full of age-appropriate nutrients and particularly features the addition of avocado. The nutrient-dense avocado is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Sammy’s Milk is available for shipping in the United States and may be a great option for supplementing your baby over 1 year.
Worth mentioning: A goat milk formula kit
Mt. Capra Goat Milk Baby Formula Recipe
This unique option is not, in fact, an actual infant formula. It’s a baby formula recipe. This may sound a little nerve-wracking, and to be honest, it should.
Almost every expert will NOT recommend making your own baby formula at home — there’s just too much risk for error, and your baby’s nutrition during the first year of life can have serious consequences on their current and future health.
Still, we wanted to mention this kit in the chance you’ve grown curious about a DIY option (although you can already tell what our opinion is, can’t you?).
Mt. Capra claims that their kit (which is quite expensive) comes with everything you need and very clear instructions for making an at-home baby formula that meets FDA guidelines for infant nutrition.
The makers claim that this is a much healthier option for your baby, as it contains more whole ingredients and is less processed than commercially prepared infant formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against it on the grounds that it doesn’t provide adequate nutrition.
Frequently asked questions
Is goat milk formula safe for newborns?
If a goat’s milk formula is produced specifically for infants aged 0 to 12 months and meets FDA or EC standards for infant formula, it should be safe for a newborn. It is always best to check any formula you’re considering with your pediatrician before giving it to a newborn baby.
Is goat’s milk similar to breast milk?
Goat’s milk by itself is not that similar to breast milk. Goat’s milk is nutritionally most like cow’s milk. However, there may be some nutritional aspects of goat milk formula that seem more similar to breast milk than other options.
For instance, one study conducted using a simulated (lab version) of baby digestion to compare protein digestion from cow milk formula, goat milk formula, and breast milk found that digestion of protein from goat milk formulas was more similar to that of breast milk.
Is goat milk formula good for constipation?
Due to the higher proportion of casein (versus whey) protein and the types of fatty acids, goat milk formula may contribute to less constipation in formula- fed babies. However, there has also been at least one study that showed little difference in the pooping patterns of babies who were fed goat milk formula.
What are the benefits to goat’s milk?
There have been a number of studies (primarily conducted overseas) looking at the nutrient content of goat’s milk versus cow’s milk, as well as at the growth and behavior of babies fed goat milk formula versus cow milk formula. The results are inconclusive.
It seems well established that a goat milk infant formula meeting FDA requirements for infant formula has adequate nutrition for healthy baby growth.
There is conflicting information regarding other benefits, such as goat’s milk improving the absorption of iron and increasing healthy gut microbes. Whether it has easier-to-digest proteins, a wider variety of healthy fats, higher levels of certain vitamins such as vitamin B6, calcium, and vitamin A, are also debated. Some studies have found these nutritional advantages to goat’s milk, while others did not.
The main conclusion seems to be that just as with cow’s milk, the nutritional properties of goat’s milk can vary depending on the time of year the milk is produced, the type of goat, and the diet fed to the goats. If it’s something you want to try, it is worth a chat with your pediatrician to discuss whether goat’s milk formula could have any benefit for your baby.
While breast milk is the recommended nutrition for your baby, you may choose to supplement or not breastfeed for a variety of reasons.
Traditional infant formulas have a cow’s milk base, but there are a number of goat milk formulas available today. You may be considering a goat milk formula if you heard your baby might be able to digest it well (particularly if they have a cow’s milk sensitivity).
It’s important to review any formula decision with your pediatrician to make sure that your little one is receiving all the nutrients they need for a healthy first year of life.
Read more on: parenting