As a mom of two with Master of Science (MSc) in biochemistry, I like to keep myself up-to-date with all the different ingredients found in today’s milk formula. I carefully look for the facts, references, and information from reliable sources. The reason I am telling you this is because you will find many blogs with unsubstantiated claims that do not discern the heart of the issue. These types of information generally make it hard to take a legitimate decision, especially when it comes to your lovely baby’s diet.
First of all, whenever you see a cow’s milk or goat milk baby formula you always try to make sure that it is safe for your baby. The fats that you find in these two types of milk sources are mostly vegetable based, and the vitamins and minerals formula is pretty much comparable between these two formulas. The manufacturers strengthen both these formulas by maintaining the right balance of minerals and vitamins to mimic breast milk. However, when discussing cow’s milk vs goat milk for babies, the main difference lies in their proteins.
The Major Differences
There are basically two forms of protein. All the protein in human milk, cow’s milk, and goat milk come in two forms – casein and whey. The difference is that casein protein precipitates or falls out of a solution at a low pH level while whey protein stays mixed into the liquid. This also means both casein and whey protein have different molecular structures and fall into different categories. Let me tell you more about these proteins in context with cow milk vs goat milk for babies.
Cow’s Milk vs Goat Milk for Babies: Casein Protein
As you have already known that protein found in goat’s milk is more easily digested and it mostly comes from a casein component. In general, all casein proteins in cow’s or goat’s milk have at least one ester bond phosphate group, which leads itself to an uneven charge distribution on the protein structure. This means there are hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions in a casein protein. Casein protein is not soluble, it acts almost like oil in water that does not dissolve by itself. If that is the case then you should have noticed chunks floating around your milk.
You do not see such things because inside casein protein, a part of the protein called micellar casein does not mesh well with water and the granules are maintained in a colloidal solution that floats around the solution. Micelle proteins are spherical and microstructures that are invisible to your eye. It has the unique capability of curdling within the stomach. This curdling creates a unique bolus structure with special molecular properties that helps enzymes in the stomach absorb the health-promoting peptides much more effectively. This bolus structure is also the reason that casein has grown in popularity within the baby formula industry since it keeps the protein in the digestive tract for a much longer time, giving your baby’s bloodstream a slow dose of protein.
When your baby requires to digest all the nutrients (amino acid) from micelle protein, they digest in two ways- by the acid precipitation and by the enzymes that are found inside their stomach. Micelles from goat’s milk protein are smaller than those from cow’s milk proteins. Since goat’s milk protein has a smaller micelle, which is broken apart by enzymes and acid to form a softer and smaller curd. This helps enzymes and small intestines to finish the digestive process and allows the amino acids to dissolve into the bloodstream.
Cow’s Milk vs Goat Milk for Babies: Whey Protein
Usually, there are two types of whey protein that can be found in goat’s milk: alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin; and this protein contains 9 different amino acids.
You must have heard that goat’s milk protein is hypoallergenic or less allergenic than that of cow’s. The primary protein in cow’s milk whey is alpha-lactalbumin and this is the protein that most babies are allergic to. However, goat milk has alpha-lactalbumin but its molecular structures are a little different. Due to that reason, it can be a big deal for some babies but not for the others.
On the other hand, beta-lactoglobulin protein in the goat milk for infants can be digested three times faster than cow’s milk. Some babies can be allergic to this beta-lactoglobulin since breast milk has zero beta-lactoglobulin. But babies are more susceptible to alpha-lactalbumin than beta-lactoglobulin, which makes goat’s milk less allergenic than cow’s milk.
Is Goat’s Milk Better Than Cow’s Milk?
If you consider a pasteurized whole goat milk and check out the nutritional table, you will find that the milk is rich in calcium, vitamin A, and protein. The milk is lower in lactose so if your baby is lactose intolerant or have trouble digesting cow’s milk then goat milk is a good option. Most of the cow’s milk commercially available have A1 casein, which is highly inflammatory for children. It causes a runny nose, abdominal cramps, and colic in babies. For those who do not know, casein is a slow protein which helps you lose more body fat if you are following a weight loss plan. A1 and A2 casein are two types of proteins between which A2 is considered good. However, A2 casein milk from cow is available in a very few countries across the globe.
On the other hand, goat milk contains A2 casein that makes it closest to the human breast milk and thus does not cause any of these issues; making goat milk the best bet. It is also considered good for PCOS and thyroid. Goat milk is rich in calcium and helps increase good cholesterol levels. It has healing properties similar to olive oil. It is also known to combat anemia, as regularly consuming goat milk enhances the ability to use iron and boosts the regeneration of hemoglobin.
Goat milk powder formula is also a good option if fresh raw goats milk for babies is not available. It is best for babies once they have moved past breastfeeding or the mother has breastfeeding difficulties, as it contains a few allergens than cow’s milk. But goat milk is not so common and it is expensive than cow’s milk. Moreover, when discussing goat milk vs cow milk for babies, goat milk provides complete nutrition and has fewer additives than cow’s milk.
So, in short, all the babies and those suffering from PCOS, PCOD, thyroid, uric acid, and also who have digestive issues or are lactose intolerant – or should I say rather everyone should opt for goat milk instead of cow’s milk.
Why Goat Milk Is Not Always an Option?
When your baby is diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy, you may not know what part of the protein your baby is reacting to. It would have been better if you could have made a decision and fed your baby a hypoallergenic formula. In the same way, goat’s milk protein is not always a solution. Your doctor may not recommend goat milk protein as a solution because of two reasons.
- Suppose you have two babies both of whom are allergic to alpha-lactalbumin – the primary protein of cow’s milk. One of them may do well with the goat’s milk protein because of the little differences between the goat and the cow’s alpha-lactalbumin, but it may not be the case for the other baby. This is the reason you’ll never have a clear official medical opinion regarding the use of goat’s milk over the symptoms of cow’s milk allergy.
- Some children who do have severe reactions to cow’s milk-based formula have complete alleviation of their symptoms on a goat’s milk formula. Because whatever they were reacting to in the cow’s milk is not present at a high enough concentration in goat milk to cause a reaction, or the small molecular differences between the two proteins or the species weren’t enough to initiate the immune reaction.
However, it is also possible that it could work for your baby as well and have an immediate reaction to the allergy; but the concern is whether it will really work or not. When your baby has an allergy you cannot tell exactly which individual molecular component of a protein is causing that reaction.
Let me wrap up the whole information into something that would be usable with the formulas for your baby. If an immunologist has not diagnosed your baby with a true allergy to cow’s milk but your baby is suffering from chronic symptoms like chronic eczema, diarrhea, constipation, or incessant congestion, talk to your doctor about goat’s milk protein because it might be something worth trying.
Lastly, if you had to choose milk formula between homemade and the store-bought one, I would recommend you to try store-bought goat’s milk formula rather than making your own formula at home. The reason I am suggesting you this is because commercial formula manufacturers meet certain standards and cater to the formula according to your baby’s age and medical condition. Not only that, but you will also be more comfortable with the conventional goat milk formula because it will give you more options to select an acceptable formula for your baby.