UPDATED: March 2017
Organic baby formula is a hot topic here; in fact, it’s the single most popular topic of questions you ask. I understand—you want to make sure that what you’re feeding your babies and toddlers is the best stuff possible, and there are about a gajillion types of organic baby formula now on the market. I’ve reviewed many of them in my Safe Infant Formula Guide, and compared European organic baby formula options from HiPP and Holle. But there’s a whole other category of baby formulas that I haven’t really written much about…until now.
Are Goat Milk Formulas Good Stuff?
Many of you have been asking about goat milk formulas: Are they healthier and less allergenic than cow milk formulas? Which brands are Good Stuff? Is it worth switching baby formula? What are the benefits of goat milk?
Read on for answers, including my two cents on the best products on the market.
Here’s the Deal with Goat Milk Formula…
1) Is goat milk healthier than cow milk? What are the benefits of goat milk formula?
Goat milk can be better, yes.
In basic nutritional terms, goat milk and cow milk are pretty similar. Goat milk tends to be higher in several vitamins and minerals. Cow milk is higher in vitamin B12 and has significantly more folic acid than goat milk.
When it comes to formula, these differences don’t matter much. All formulas have nutrients added to make up for whatever the milk they’re based on might be lacking, and to make the formula mimic human milk as closely as possible.
What’s most important is how the animals—be they cows or goats—are fed and raised. I prefer milk that is organic, non-GMO, and from animals that are pastured.
It’s also worth noting that animal studies and some studies on humans suggest that the vitamins and minerals in goat’s milk might be more readily absorbed than those in cow milk. Basically, goat milk in its natural state seems to be closer to human milk than cow milk is, which is one of the benefits of goat milk formulas.
Note that whichever formula you choose, you should always use a water filter to remove chlorine (carcinogenic) and fluoride (linked with lowered IQ). (Here’s more on why you should get a filter and which ones I like.)
2) Is goat milk less allergenic than cow milk?
Yes. One of the other benefits of goat milk formula is that it’s easier to digest. But it’s not for everyone.
Goat’s milk is regarded as a “hypoallergenic” alternative to cow milk because it’s less likely to trigger the allergies and food sensitivities that many people experience with cow milk.
The composition of the proteins and fats in goat and cow milk varies enough to make goat milk less problematic and, overall, more digestible. For babies, whose immune and digestive systems are still developing, this could make a big difference.
- The proteins in goat milk digest faster and more easily than those in cow milk. (This is true for the fats, too.) In terms of allergies, goat milk does not contain the type of casein protein, alpha-S1, that tends to be problematic in cow milk. Instead, the primary type of casein in goat milk is more similar to what’s found in human milk. Note: if your child has a full-blown cow milk protein allergy (CMPA), he or she could also react to the proteins in goat’s milk, which are similar.
- Goat milk has less lactose than cow milk, but it might still be an issue for people with lactose intolerance. All of the goat milk formulas I reviewed, except for Sammy’s Milk, add more lactose as carbohydrate source.
3) Why aren’t all of these goat milk formulas organic?
Of the goat milk formulas I researched, only one brand, Holle, is certified organic (according to European standards, which are actually stricter than American standards). This may be surprising, given that these companies all seem to be going to great lengths to make formula with pure ingredients. As it turns out, there isn’t much certified organic goats milk being produced. There are multiple reasons for this phenomenon, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.
Kabrita goat’s milk is non-GMO, from farms in the Netherlands and Missouri. I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not antibiotics are used on goats that produce milk for Kabrita.
NANNYcare milk is from goats that are mostly pasture fed in New Zealand, and raised without the use of hormones; antibiotics use is minimal.
You’ll find more info about Sammy’s Milk below.
4) Which goat milk formula is best? Is it worth switching baby formula?
We all know breast milk is better than formula, be in from a goat or a cow, and even if you’re choosing an organic baby formula. There’s no such thing as a perfect formula, but the best brands get really close– close enough that you should feel confident feeding the formula to your infant or toddler.
In this comparison of goat milk formulas, I considered several factors:
- The quality and purity of the goat milk (organic/non-GMO/pastured);
- The type and purity of of added carbohydrates (sugars);
- The type and purity of added vegetable oils;
- The presence of hexane-extracted DHA/ARA;
- and the presence of problematic synthetic preservatives and nutrients.
Here’s my bottom line: All of the brands I looked into qualify as Good Stuff when looked at in the context of baby formula in general. If I were looking for a goat’s milk formula for my kids, here is what I would choose, in order of preference:
1st choice: Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula (12+ months).
I like that Kabrita uses non-GMO goat milk (from Missouri and the Netherlands) and has lactose as the primary added carbohydrate.
What really makes Kabrita stand out is the fat blend that they use—from what we know, Kabrita is the only brand that uses plant-derived fats that match the structure of the most common fat molecules in breast milk. These fats (high SN-2 palmitate, a.k.a. “OPO fats”), which are produced by an enzymatic reaction on a mixture of vegetable oils, have been shown to promote more healthy bacteria in the gut, reduce colic and gas, reduce constipation, and allow for fat and calcium to be absorbed better.
I also appreciate that Kabrita is transparent about their ingredients. And like all of the formulas listed here, Kabrita forgoes the most concerning preservatives and most synthetic nutrients (they do add L-carninite and taurine).
Kabrita adds hexane-extracted DHA and ARA but claim that hexane is not present in the finished product.
Kabrita hopes to debut an infant formula in the US market in 2018.
Kabrita is offering my readers 10% off with code GIMMEKABRITA. You can buy their products here.
2nd choice: Holle Organic Infant Goat Milk Formula 1 (0+ months) and Holle Organic Infant Goat Milk Follow-on Formula 2 (6+ months).
I like that the primary ingredients in these formulas—goat milk, carbohydrates, and oils—meet a very high, European organic standard. These are the only goat milk formulas that are officially organic. (I’m also a fan of Holle’s cow milk formulas, too, and recommend them in my guide to organic baby formula.) I also like that they don’t add hexane-extracted DHA/ARA and also forgo the most concerning preservatives and most problematic synthetic nutrients. (Formula 1 does have L-methionine).
I don’t like that maltodextrin is the primary added carbohydrate, but I appreciate that it is organic, and that they do also use lactose. I’m also not a fan of the palm and grapeseed oils, but they are organic, and they also use organic sunflower oil.
Holle isn’t imported to the U.S. so can be hard to purchase; you can get Holle’s Goat Milk’s formulas from Little World Organics here or Organic Munchkin. I’ve spoken with both of these distributors and would feel comfortable ordering from them if I were looking to feed my own baby this formula.
3rd choice: NANNYcare First Infant Milk, Follow On Milk, and Growing Up Milk.
The goat milk used for NANNYcare formulas seems to be well-sourced from New Zealand, but they don’t have any organic or non-GMO certifications.
I like that lactose is the only added carbohydrate, and they skip palm oil and hexane-extracted DHA and ARA. They also don’t use any soy-based ingredients (oil or lecithin).
Like all of the goat milk formulas listed here, NANNYcare forgoes the most concerning preservatives and most synthetic nutrients (they do add L-carninite and taurine to the first formula and growing up milk, and taurine to the follow on milk).
What About Sammy’s Milk?
We originally wrote this guide before the Sammy’s Milk recall. Now of course we cannot recommend it, nor can you buy it anywhere. Still, here’s why we were going to call it Good Stuff:
Sammy’s Milk gets their milk is from a single farm in Texas, where the goats are free range, antibiotic free, and hormone free. Their farm uses organic farming practices, but hasn’t gone through the organic certification process, so you could call it “unofficially organic.”
Sammy’s Milk gets major points for using molasses as the added carbohydrate and a source of bioavailable iron; using real fish oil as a source of DHA and EPA; skipping palm oil (they use non-GMO high-oleic safflower oil instead); forgoing the most concerning synthetic preservatives and nutrients; adding prebiotics to encourage healthy gut bacteria; and avoiding soy lecithin and soybean oil.
March 2017 update: Sammy’s Milk is available again, now called a “toddler formula.”
Should You Be Switching Baby Formula?
If your child is happy and healthy on a safe, healthy organic baby formula with cow milk as a base, I don’t think you necessarily need to change anything. However, if it were my baby, the benefits of goat milk formula would probably make me consider switching baby formula. Of course, you should always talk to your pediatrician about what to feed your baby—I am not a medical professional.
PS: If you have a DIY gene, and aren’t bothered by the controversy surrounding homemade formula, and want to enjoy all the benefits of goat milk…consider making your own goat milk formula from fresh milk.