Fact check: No, goat's milk is not a substitute for baby formula, experts say
The claim: Goat milk is healthier than baby formula
As families nationwide struggle to find baby formula amid the ongoing shortage, some online claim there is a simple alternative to keep infants well-fed.
"My grandma couldn't nurse one of her babies. She bought a goat and gave her baby raw goat's milk," reads a screenshot of a tweet shared in a Facebook post May 5."There's a baby formula shortage? Buy a goat! It's far healthier than baby formula."
The post generated over 3,000 interactions and 1,600 shares in less than a week. Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.
But doctors say the claim is false.
Goat milk does not have the nutrients needed for babies to thrive, experts told USA TODAY. Babies who drink goat milk in place of formula can face potential health risks.
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USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Goat milk is not safe for babies
Goat milk, or any animal-derived milk of the sort, should never be used as an alternative to baby formula for infants below the age of 12 months, Dr. Arik Alper, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Yale New Haven Hospital, told USA TODAY.
Formulas include nutrients, minerals and additives that allow a baby to properly develop and provide a safe alternative to breastfeeding, Alper said. Goat milk lacks those necessary components, which often result in detrimental effects on the baby.
Goat milk is low in iron and vitamin B12, which helps form red blood cells, according to Dr. Ann Kellams, a pediatrician at UVA Health. Babies only fed goat milk can develop anemia, in which inadequate oxygen flows to the body's organs, according to Mayo Clinic.
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Goat milk is also low in vitamin C, which protects the body against infection, and vitamin D, which helps supplement bone growth, according to Kellams. Insufficient vitamins can lead to a higher risk of morbidity and even mortality in babies.
Kellams said other concerns of babies feeding on goat milk include electrolyte imbalance, in which compounds like calcium are at undesired levels in the body, kidney complications and improper organ and brain development.
Babies who feed on unpasteurized goat milk are placed in even more danger as they can be exposed to bacteria and infection, according to Alper.
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It is true that after one year, caregivers typically transition from infant formula or breast milk to whole milk. But Alper said cow milk is still a better choice than goat milk at that point.
"Goat's milk is higher in protein. It has excessive mineral intake, way more calcium and phosphorus than you need," Alper said. "The level of nutrition of a goat's milk is also inferior when compared to cow's milk."
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that goat milk is healthier than baby formula. Goat milk is not a safe or healthy alternative to baby formula, doctors say. It lacks the nutrition needed for babies to properly develop.
Our fact-check sources:
- Dr. Steven Abrams, May 17, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Dr. Ann Kellams, May 17, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Dr. Gabrielle Dixon, May 17, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Dr. Arik Alper, May 17, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- USA TODAY, May 13, Baby formula shortage costing parents: 'It's a desperate situation for many families'
- USA TODAY, May 12, White House moves to curb baby formula shortage but says unsure when parents could see relief
- USA TODAY, May 17, What are safe substitutes for baby formula? Amid worsening shortage, avoid homemade recipes
- Mayo Clinic, July 17, 2021, Vitamin B-12
- Mayo Clinic, Feb. 11, Anemia
- Healthline, accessed May 18, Understanding electrolyte disorders
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.