The comment about camel milk as a breastmilk alternative was written as a response to a frequently asked question on Pete Evans' website:
“Can I be pregnant and take part in the [paleo] program?” (To be clear, Bupa does not support the paleo diet as a healthy balanced diet.)
“…in our opinion there has never been a more important and utterly critical time to avoid highly antigenic foods such as gluten, grains and dairy products (except for possibly camel’s milk, which is expensive and a bit hard to come by, but is generally safe from an immune reactive standpoint. It’s nearly identical in its total composition to human milk, and as such may prove useful where supplementing regular breast-feeding might be necessary, as well as a non-immune reactive dairy alternative).”
Shock horror – Pete Evans' website has described camel milk as a “generally safe” breast milk alternative for babies to supplement breastfeeding. And his claims have spread like wildfire.
Evans has since responded saying he actually doesn't think breastfeeding mothers should feed camel milk to their babies, but unfortunately the message is already out in the public.
So let us be clear. Is camel milk a safe breastmilk alternative? NO IT IS NOT.
Camel’s milk is not a generally safe breastmilk
alternative, for so many reasons. But let’s just start with at a few.
Bupa National Medical Officer Dr Tim Ross says the antibodies in human breastmilk are one of the key reasons it’s so special, specifically tailored to look after a baby’s delicate and developing immune system.
“Camels and humans do not share the same illnesses and camel milk does not contain the antibodies that a mother can provide to protect their child," he says.
Camel milk is also three times higher in protein compared to breast milk, which could damage a human baby’s kidneys.
“Breast milk or formula
should supply almost 100 per cent of an infant’s nutrition and fluid requirements in their first six months - so it’s critical that what you’re giving them is safe and proven to give them everything their growing bodies need,” she says.
“There are no reliable studies that show that camel’s milk offers the same health benefits to growing babies as breast milk or infant formula.”
D’Angelo says milk (which is not breastmilk) should only be given to your baby after eight months, and introduced gradually.
“The reason we say to delay the introduction of cow’s milk until about eight months of age is that it can irritate the lining of the baby’s developing digestive system,” she says.
“Wait until 12 months
before offering ordinary milk as a drink," she recommends. "Calves and kids have different requirements to human babies.”
D’Angelo says infant formula also needs to be strictly prepared according to the instructions, and that it’s important to always use the scoop that came in the can.
“Soy and goat’s milk-based formulas are not recommended for infants, unless on medical advice,” she says.
On the ‘Camel Milk Victoria’ website it states that “Camel milk is the healthier, more nutritional alternative to other milk.” Slightly vague, right? However it then goes on to claim that camel milk “is said to be the new superfood claiming to aid in many health issues. Autism, diabetes, food allergies, insulin problems, lactose intolerance, skin conditions and cancer.”
That’s right up the top of the page. If you weren’t looking for it, it would be very easy to miss the tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page:
“While camel milk is said to have many health benefits, Camel Milk Victoria does not claim that camel milk heals or will help your health in any way,” it reads.
So hold on, it’s the healthier alternative to milk which actually doesn’t help your health at all?
There are a few important lessons to take out of this: be VERY careful who you accept advice from, and stick to the professionals. Leave chefs to do the cooking and the health professionals to tell you what’s healthiest for you and your families.
Check out our parenting hub First Thousand Days
for support, information and inspiration to help guide you through your parenting journey, from conception until a child turns two.