Goat’s Milk

Goat’s Milk
Q:
Goat’s Milk

My 6-month-old is allergic to cow’s milk and soy. What do you think about goat’s milk?

A:

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

People used to say children that young don’t have allergies, but clearly they do. About 6 percent have food allergies, more than one in 20. Most of these are allergic to only one type of food, but among those whose allergy is to cow’s milk, there is a higher chance that they will also be allergic to soy and perhaps to goat’s milk. The good news is that these children are very likely to outgrow these allergies, most by the first birthday and almost all who haven’t by age 3.

Formulas like Nutramigen or Alimentum are hydrolyzed so that there is very little cow’s milk protein and many babies will do well on them. Those who are very allergic could use Neocate, which has none. I recommend that babies get either breast milk or formula for the full first year.

If you breastfeed and your baby is allergic to both cow’s milk and soy, then you need to avoid both in your diet.  This entails reading labels carefully since ingredients such as casein and whey contain cow’s milk proteins and are commonly found in processed foods. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has a helpful guide for avoiding milk and soy-containing products  (https://www.foodallergy.org/files/media/downloads/HTRLsheet201…).

Goat’s milk is closer to human milk than cow’s milk is, and in many countries it is used exclusively for infant feeding. The protein in goat’s milk is easier to digest than the protein in cow’s milk. If you are going to use goat’s milk, the biggest thing to be aware of is that goat’s milk is low in iron and certain vitamins, especially vitamin B12 and folate. Infants fed unfortified goat’s milk who do not get supplemented with iron and vitamins can develop anemia. The other big thing to be aware of is that a bacterium called brucellosis can occur in goat’s milk, so you should boil it before giving it to babies. For children over 1 year old, goat’s milk is probably better than cow’s milk, just not as readily available in the U.S.

Reviewed by: Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, Rebecca Hicks
Last reviewed: June 28, 2011
Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

Comments

  • Charlie Shearer

    The signs I saw (in my breastfed son) of a possible allergy seemed subtle to me at first. At 2 months he kept having stools that caused a very painful rash so I went on an elimination diet for corn, wheat, eggs, and milk. I already suspected milk because of my Native American ancestry, and memories of visiting my grandparents farm as a child where we could drink a gallon of milk if we wanted. I often had severe abdominal pain durning these visits and milk was the only difference as we had very little cow’s milk at home. I added the eliminated foods back in every 3 to 4 days with no painful stools for my son, and in the meantime my little guys rash had cleared up. When I got to milk in my diet I fed my son about an hour or two after I drank milk, his reaction was so severe, I would have never suspected such a reaction from painful stools followed by a localized rash in his diaper area. After his feeding, a raised red rash started on his torso and face almost simultaneously and moved across his body and down his legs and his poor little eye swelled shut after these welts covered his face. The swelling was alarming so I kept a very close watch on him, there was no swelling of his mouth or tongue and no wheezing. In hindsight I probably would have taken him to the emergency room or urgent care anyway, but the swelling dissipated within about an hour and it never affected his mood or breathing. Needless to say I never ate so much as cheese, nor drank any cows milk for the rest of his breastfeeding career! Later I very cautiously tried goats milk in my diet and his at 12 months old and he had no difficulty with it!

    • http://www.DrGreene.com DrGreene

      Thanks for sharing your story! It may help someone else uncover an unsuspected allergy. I’m glad the goats’ milk worked for both you and your son! And I’m very glad about a wonderful new goat milk formula that’s a nice alternative to cows’ milk for those taking formula.