science-behind-goat-milk-formula-recipe

The Science

The goal is easy to understand: Create a homemade goat milk formula recipe that resemble mother’s milk as closely as possible.

Easy to state, hard to accomplish.

In order for a homemade recipe to resemble human breast milk, we first need to know what the nutritional components of human breast milk are. Here is the rub though, we don’t know. Mimicking breast milk is like trying to mimic the weather; it is constantly changing.

mimicking breast milk is like trying to mimic the weather; it is constantly changing.

There is no standardized nutritional profile for breast milk.

I know, I know, we want a nice little nutrition facts panel that clearly details exactly the amounts of fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, bio-active components like nucleotides, cytokines, and growth factors in mother’s milk.

However this is never going to happen.

There are literally huge changes in the composition of breast milk that make it impossible to give an exact nutritional profile.

The best we can do is analyze thousands of samples of breast milk for hundreds of different women at dozens of different times during their lactation taking into account such variables as time post-partum, minutes into feeding (foremilk vs hindmilk), ethnicity, region, age, diet, health status, etc. The list of variables needed to determine the nutritional profile of breast milk is mind boggling.

We can however use the power of statistics and make some assumptions.

You see we are not completely in the dark as to this nutritional composition. We do have some detailed analysis that shows in each 5 ounces of milk on average breast milk contains the following macro nutrient profile.

Per 5 ounces Breast milk
Calories 103.5
Lactose 10.7
Fat 5.76
Protein 2.04

So even though the nutritional composition of breast milk might vary (some estimate by as much as a factor of 3 during feeding) we can get a general ballpark for where an infant formula should be nutritionally speaking. Here is how the recipe I created compares with breast milk.

Per 5 ounces Breast Milk Goat Milk Formula
Calories 103.5 100.7
Lactose 10.7 11.1
Fat 5.76 5.3
Protein 2.04 2.3

First the backstory.

I have been a lifetime goat milk consumer due to a nasty allergy I had developed as a young child to cow milk. A careless licked ice cream spoon was all it took to send me over the edge and into an intense allergic reaction. It was safe to call my allergy severe but I can’t claim that it was unusual. Cow milk allergy (CMA) is the number one allergy in kids and symptoms include irritability, vomiting, wheezing, swelling, hives, and even anaphylactic shock! Thankfully the solution to this problem became evident and I was immediately placed on goat milk and thrived.

It was safe to call my allergy severe but I can’t claim that it was unusual. Cow milk allergy is the number one allergy in kids and symptoms include irritability, vomiting, wheezing, swelling, hives, and even anaphylactic shock!

My daughter Liesl was in desperate need of a formula that would not cause her to experience the tell tale signs of cow milk allergy. Her younger sister was coming and mama’s supply of breast milk gave out. However commercial formulas were a disaster. Right away we noticed, hives on her cheeks, legs, and arms. She then developed an awful diaper rash, as well as severe diarrhea. Needless to say we took her off of that formula immediately and started her on the goat milk formula (GMF).

Note: I have never advocated giving infants goat milk as the sole source of nutrition. Goat milk by itself contains excessive protein and sodium and lacks folate and vitamin B12 (among other things). This is a Goat Milk Formula Recipe and not plain goat milk.

Now I believe using goat milk as the base to this formula is the perfect alternative to cow milk but I at the time wasn’t satisfied with the homemade infant formulas available. While there were many reasons for this, the the primary one was that the recipes that were available were all based on cow milk.

Cow milk contains an extremely allergenic protein called alpha s1 casein which is recognized by the body as a foreign antigen (invader). When the body “recognizes” this invader it “reacts” with an immune response that includes all the signs and symptoms listed above.

Cow milk allergy (CMA) is the number one allergy causing substance in kids under three. 

All of the homemade formulas listed at the time included raw cow milk. Conveniently left out of the discussion was the fact that raw milk will not prevent a CMA reaction. If a child has CMA it doesn’t matter if the milk is raw or pasteurized, an allergic reaction will still occur as the body is reacting to the protein not the presence or absence of of enzymes or probiotics as is found in raw milk. In fact, in the study I cited above, the only way to lessen the chance of a CMA reaction was to extensively heat the milk at high temperatures. Note: I love raw cow milk and occasionally drink it myself but know first hand that raw or pasteurized you will react if you have CMA.

Convinced that the world was in dire need of a scientifically sound goat milk formula, I decided to put my six and half years of nutrition study to work.

Goat milk is the perfect alternative to cow milk in an infant formula, however an infants needs are slightly different than those of an adult or even a young child.

First, if goat milk is the sole food being provided to an infant than protein content needs to be taken into account. Goat milk should be diluted to lower the protein content. This will ensure that the formula doesn’t contain protein levels that would be stressful to the newly formed kidneys of the infant. However once you lower the protein levels by diluting the milk, you now have to increase the calories, carbohydrates, and fat, accordingly to make up for diluting the milk.

This is simple enough to accomplish by adding healthy and proper fats, carbohydrates, and other micronutrients back in via goat milk lactose, goat milk ghee, high-oleic sunflower oil, and the rest of the ingredients that make up the recipe

Now this recipe is certainly not the first homemade baby formula recipe ever created. No one living can claim to have invented a homemade formula as formula has always meant recipe or to put another way, a “formula” of ingredients.

There are at least three aspects of this recipe that make it different than any other recipe I’ve seen or heard of.

  1. Easy to obtain ingredients
    • No need to pester your local chicken farmer for raw livers or try and obtain raw milk that may or may not be contaminated with listeria, e. coli, or campylobacter jejuni.
  2. Follows a straight forward mixing/preparing schedule
    • No need to spend hours at the oven boiling beef gelatin. This formula can be made in 8 oz batches in just minutes of simply measuring and mixing directly in the bottle your about to use. No extensive preparing or cleanup. 
  3. Complete compliance with Federal nutrient requirements for infant formula.
    •  This is the one that makes it all worthwhile. I recently spent over 40 hours researching and compiling a database that compares the nutrient minimums and maximums allowed by the Infant Formula Act of 1980 to nutrient levels found in the goat milk formula recipe when it is properly mixed and prepared. The results were astounding. Every single nutrient is in compliance with federal law making this formula the first of its kind.

Let’s briefly look at the macronutrient consideration for this formula.

Protein

Goat milk is the sole source of protein in this formula recipe. There are no other significant sources of protein from other ingredients and is the most important macronutrient from growing muscle, tissue, and over infant growth. Goat milk is the perfect ingredient in this category for reasons I have mentioned before such as the fact that the nucleotide (DNA) structure of goat milk is very similar to breast milk and the presence of taurine in goat milk is between 20 times that of cow’s milk which is, not surprisingly, the same ratio found in breast milk, (Being a conditionally essential amino acid, taurine is often added to cow milk formulas to make up for the natural absence of this key AA in cow milk) and the polyamine content is higher in goat milk than any any other mammalian milk. 

Carbohydrates

Lactose makes the main source of energy for baby in this formula. Lactose, also known as “milk sugar”, is a combination of glucose and galactose which is perfect for an infant’s diet. Babies naturally produce excessive amounts of lactase, an enzyme used to digest lactose so the fit is natural. Also, lactose is really helpful in establishing Lactobacillus acidophilus (good bacteria) in the newly formed GI tract of your little one and aids in the absorption of the minerals magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron. 

Lactose isn’t the only carbohydrate found in goat milk though. In fact, one of the most unique and nutritionally beneficial aspect to goat milk is its potential as a functional food due to the high levels of oligosaccharides. These forms of soluble fiber are absolutely vital in establishing a health microflora in the digestive tract of an infant and are found in levels 4-5 times higher than in cow milk and 10 times higher than the content found in sheep milk. In addition to this, the Journal of Nutrition found that “(the oligosaccharide) profile of goat milk is most similar to that of human milk. In fact, a larger amount and variety of acidic (oligosaccharide) structures were identified in goat milk than in cow and sheep milk. Therefore, goat milk (oligosaccharides) could be included in infant formulas to improve the nutrition of infants.”

Fat

The benefits of making your own baby formula at home really becomes apparent when it comes to the fat content and fatty acid profile of the final product. When you buy commercially manufactured infant formula, by law it will be required to have an appropriate amount of fat and linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid). However simply having the correct amount of fat is not the same as having the correct kinds of fat. F

First some biochemistry

Proper fatty acid profile is critical. 

For decades we’ve heard that fat is bad for you. Fortunately this myth is going away but the science it was based upon was not entirely faulty. Properly restated, inflammatory fat is bad for you. 

The fatty acid profile of the Standard American Diet is made up primarily of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). We eat about 20 times more of  these inflammatory fatty acids than we need and because of this are constantly struggling with inflammation issues and not surprisingly obesity. The far more beneficial fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and animal sourced saturated fatty acids (SFA) are what we should be focusing on for baby’s health.  Yes, some PUFA’s are essential the main one being linoleic acid (C18:2). These are essential because the body cannot synthesize linoleic acid on its own which is why the Infant Formula Act of 1980 stipulates that for every 100 calories of formula, there must be a minimum of 300mg linoleic acid. 

So far so good.

The problem we run into with commercially produced formulas is the fact that the cheapest oils have the most linoleic acid.

Soybean, canola, corn oil, it all will easily fulfill the minimum requirement for linoleic acid and its already super cheap. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that if compliance can be achieve while using the cheapest ingredient most manufacturers are going to take this path. This is a problem because the formula, while technically in compliance, has an unhealthy fatty acid profile. 

High in PUFA’s and low in MUFA’s/SFA’s. Not good.

There are 3 ingredients that contain fat in the formula. Here they are along with their fatty acid profile.

  1. Goat Milk Ghee/Full Cream Milk Powder
    • 65% SFA
    • 23% MUFA
    • 4% PUFA
  2. Hi-Oleic Sunflower Oil
    • 7% SFA
    • 79% MUFA
    • 14% PUFA
  3. Expeller-pressed Grapeseed Oil
    • 7% SFA
    • 21% MUFA
    • 71% PUFA

The real beauty lies in the fact that we can include a relatively tiny amount (1/8 tsp) of high PUFA oil (Grapeseed) which is enough to ensure the recipe meets the linoleic acid requirement without flooding the formula with these inflammatory oils.

Our goat milk formula recipe has a fatty acid profile that is 65% grass-fed saturated fatty acid (SFA), 24% mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and only 9% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

Published by

Joe Stout, M.S.

Joe received a Masters of Science in Clinical Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and a Bachelors of Science in Human Nutrition and Food Science from Washington State University. Along with running the farm, He has engaged in graduate studies of Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College and is certified in Permaculture Design having studied under the world renowned Geoff Lawton. Joe and his wonderful bride Elizabeth have been married for 10 years and have been blessed with 6 beautiful children.

7 thoughts on “The Science”

  1. We have been using your goat milk formula and have seen great success coming off of Alimentum. However my one question is the whey/casein ratio of the formula. Is it still only 20/80 in this formula? Is there any way or thought on how to make the ratio more similar to breastmilk’s higher concentration of whey?

    1. Great question Rebecca! I’m currently researching if this is possible. It can’t be done with milk powder but it may be possible with one of our goat milk protein concentrates. Stay tuned!

      1. My kit is scheduled to arrive today! Yay! I will be using this recipe to supplement. I’ve read on a few other sites that supplementing mom’s add breastmilk because of its whey content. Is this something I could safely do?

  2. Is there a different kind of vitamin to use that’s not a powder? A liquid perhaps? When I put it in the bottle it’s not dissolving and just sticks to the sides or clumps up in the nipple. My son is just a month old so I can’t feed it to him like I do my 2 yr old daughter. Breastfeeding this time got cut very short because I got a bad infection after my c section and with the medication I had to go on ruined my milk.

  3. Question: My husband and I did a lot of research before the birth of our baby boy (last week) and since I am unable to breastfeed we landed on your goat milk formula as our best option. However, we created quite a stir at the hospital when we brought in our own homemade formula and they “requested” that we use Alimentum during our stay. So, his first taste was of our goat’s milk formula and then Alimentum for the next 30 hours. Once we got home we switched back to our MtCapra formula. All seemed well when we first got home and he takes the formula no problem, but he missed a bowel movement yesterday and had a painful, solid (lumpy-sausage-like) movement this morning. I’m not sure if this is from the Alimentum use during our hospital stay, his system adjusting to the switch to our homemade formula, or our homemade formula itself. I was wondering, has anyone else had this experience? I am fed-up with the doctors I’ve talked to who would rather see our baby on a commercial formula (just because that’s more ‘normal’), so I’m reluctant (at this moment in time) to talk to them about this issue before learning more. Any thoughts? Our baby is 5 days old today.

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