My baby has been diagnosed with colic, I heard that switching your baby onto goat’s milk formula can help settle their symptoms. Is this true?
This is some outdated advice. There are 2 aspects to this that need attention, firstly the diagnosis of colic and secondly, changing to goat’s milk formula to help improve a formula fed babies symptoms.
Let’s look at colic first.
‘Colic’ was originally a medical term for spasm in a hollow organ and from at least the mid-18th century has been used to refer to cramps in the intestines of babies, causing crying. This crying was said to be caused by wind, constipation or a vague ‘gut upset’.
In 1954 Dr Morris Wessell defined a ‘colicky’ baby as one who cried for 3 hours a day, on 3 days a week for 3 weeks or more. This was over 60 years ago and during this time most western women didn’t breast feed. Also, the breast milk substitutes were quite unsafe for baby’s intestines, it is no wonder these babies cried so much!
Despite numerous theories proposed to play a role in infant colic, none have been proven to be causal and the term colic is now outdated. The gut is still involved in cry-fuss issues, but not always in the way many people think, and there is still no conclusively effective dietary treatment option for infant colic.
Infant ‘colic’ like behaviour can have several independent causes, for example, lactose intolerance, food hypersensitivity, unidentified feeding problems, circadian rhythm or sleep misalignments or high neurological sensitivity. You can see how important it is to have a specialised health professional assess your baby if you are having cry-fuss issues with suspect ‘colic’ or have been given a diagnosis of ‘colic’.
The use of hypoallergenic formulae or maternal elimination diets (maternal elimination diets should be avoided unless absolutely necessary) are sometimes advised and can be trailed for certain crying infants with other associated clinical symptoms, but do not work for all infants with ‘colic’. Nor should they be trialled without being advised and followed up by a medical professional e.g. a paediatrician.
With or without a medical diagnosis as the cause of a babys ‘colic’ like symptoms, assessment, education and support around babies feeding, sleeping, sensory diet and maternal mental health can provide opportunities to optimise care and enjoyment of baby and parents while reducing discomfort for baby. Bear in mind most babies that cry and fuss a lot are perfectly healthy – around 5% of distressed infants have identifiable medical explanations for their crying.
Now a bit about goat’s milk and switching to goat’s milk formula for a baby with cry-fuss issues.
Using goats milk before 6 months of age or regular use between 6 and 12 months is not recommended. Goats milk is no more appropriate to give a baby than cows milk. If you need to supplement and breast milk is not available, formulas are a more nutritionally complete product. Goat milk is much closer in composition to cows milk than human milk. Goats milk is high in sodium (as is cows milk) and is very high in chloride and potassium, which makes the renal solute load too high for babies. This can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and result in anaemia and poor growth. Goat milk is also deficient in folic acid.
Goats milk formula is not a suitable alternative to cow’s milk formula in infants allergic to cow’s milk protein as these infants are often allergic to goat’s milk too, nor is it scientifically proven to be advantageous to use goats milk formula in the presence of a lactose intolerance. So really there is nothing to suggest that switching a formula feed baby with ‘colic’ or high level cry-fuss behaviour to goat’s milk formula will help their ‘colic’ symptoms.
During several of our consults we have successfully transitioned babies away from Goats milk formula where we often encountered excessive spilling and symptoms related to the digestive system.
Amy and Elspeth
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