Human milk healthier than cow milk?

I know I’m kicking a few taboos here, but this is something I’m rather curious about. Mammals produce milk with certain combinations of nutrients ideal for their species offspring. In that vein, why do we drink cow milk? Is it simply because it is plentiful? Would human milk be more nutritious for an adult than cow milk?

Why is this subject so taboo?

I’ve heard that human milk doesn’t taste all that good after the pasturized, homoginized goodness of the watery treat from the cow’s teat.

It’s probably because it’s available in “mass quantities”. The daily output of a good dairy cow is measured in pounds. They’ve also been selectively bred to produce the maximum amount of milk for hundreds (thousands?) of years. As for a humans, they can’t compete in quantity, and eugenics is frowned upon.

Uh, the reason we don’t drink human milk is simple thermodynamics. If adult humans drank human milk, the milk providers would have to consume more calories to produce the milk than the milk itself would contain.

Cows can eat grass and other substances that humans cannot. The cows eat the grass, the cows make milk, we eat the milk.

Now, what about the healthiness of human milk vs cows milk? Well, every mammal has a different milk composition, depending on their lifestyle. Animals that spend a lot of type away from their young have concentrated milk. Animals that spend a lot of time with their young have dilute milk. Some have more sugars, some have more proteins, some have more fats. Whale milk for instance is almost 50% fat…much richer than heavy cream. Cow’s milk has much more protein and fat than human milk. Human babies fed cows milk will often have allergic reactions to all the protein in cow’s milk. Human milk is low in protein, low in fat, but high in sugar and water.

But human milk isn’t neccesarily going to be better for an adult human than cow’s milk or goat’s milk or rat’s milk. Human milk is perfect for human babies, but adults have different needs than human babies do. Adult humans do not need any dairy products in their diet, and many adult humans have difficulty digesting dairy products. So cut out dairy altogether. Or not. I personally enjoy dairy products, even if they aren’t neccesary or even healthy. Chocolate, beer, and lard aren’t neccesary or healthy either, but they are delicious.

There’s a legend, which I admit I can’t find confirmation of with a quick Google search, that John D. Rockefeller, as a very old man, could only drink milk from a wet nurse and that he survived on this for several years. Whether true or not I think it is at least possible that a human could survive for quite a long time on breast milk, if the taste could be adapted to.

Lemur866 has it mostly right on cow’s milk vs. human milk. Here’s a chart showing the comparison. Notice that fat is identical.

The mutation that allows adult humans to continue to digest lactose makes for an interesting case study. It is probably the latest and most widespread mutation to hit the human race, originating in the Middle East and spreading north with the movement of agriculture. In the past 10,000 years, the ability to drink milk as an adult has gone from the rare individual mutant to two billion adults. Even many of the rest of humanity can have small amounts of milk, as the popularity of milk products in modern Asian countries attests.

Cow’s milk is not the perfect food, nor is it a poison, as some of the more extreme anti-milk forces have it. In moderation it is a highly useful food with good bioavailability of nutrients. Milk can be used or not used as a person wishes. A sound diet can be had either way.

Human milk is very good for babies, as babies need all the fats and antibodies it contains.

Adulds, on the other hand, do not need nearly so much of the fats that are contained in human milk. Semi skimmed is best imho.

Not only is human milk better for human babies, it is the only milk human babies can drink at first, isn’t it? It is my understanding that you can’t give human babies cow’s milk until they are at least 1 year old. At least, that’s the rule I go by with my kids.

You guys wouldn’t like breast milk, it doesn’t taste very good. Of course, maybe with a bunch or Hershey’s syrup or Ovaltine… but that kind of defeats the “healthy” purpose, doesn’t it?

I would imagine the taste between human breast milk and cow milk the fact that most people drink cow milk pasteurized/homogenized at 2% fat give or take. I’ve heard stories about kids drinking cow milk straight out of the udder as a dare and apparently it tastes pretty bad too…

The only taste issue with milk “hot off the cow” is just that, it’s at blood temperature. IMHO it’s bloody marvellous stuff!

Human milk tastes entirely different from cow’s milk, and it has nothing to do with the temperature. I think it has more to do with the sugar content. Also, the flavor is influenced by what the person/cow has eaten. If a human mother eats a bunch of broccoli, garlic, onions, or any other very strong food, the baby can taste it and will on occasion refuse to nurse.

Drinking cow’s milk too soon raises the risk of developing allergies to some of the proteins in cow’s milk, but human infants certainly can drink it. And before formula was invented, it saved the lives of many infants if mom died, or her milk dried up to soon, and no other milk source could be found (wet-nurse, goat’s milk, etc.)

Have any guys tried their wife’s milk? What’s it like?

What I won’t do for you people, I swear…

I’m currently a breastfeeding mom, so I figured, OK, why not. A few minutes ago I just expressed some of my milk into a cup and tried it. Results: very light and sweet tasting. Better than regular cow’s milk, in my opinion, and definitely sweeter than cow’s milk. Maybe less creamy, though. I think the fat content is definitely lower.

I don’t know why I felt so gross about doing that.

I have heard that what you eat influences the taste, although one study suggested that babies actually prefer garlic-flavored milk.

Are you implying that goat’s milk is better for infants than cow’s milk? Interesting…

The only advantage I can think of to goat’s milk over cow’s milk (other than one might not have a cow around – many cultures don’t) is that fewer infants are likely to be allergic to goat’s milk than to cow’s milk. Slightly different alignment of protein fractions. Other than that there shouldn’t be much to choose from between the two.

On Friends they once said human breastmilk tastes like canteloupe juice. I’d agree–I’ll admit I lapped some up off my hand when I was nursing. However, it changes in composition according to the needs and age of the infant, so it might taste different depending on when you taste it.

Human milk is meant for human babies. Cow’s milk is meant for cow babies. Technically, neither is meant for adult humans.

I am also a breast-feeding mom and have, on occasion, gotten the milk on my hand, finger, whatever. I agree with Ms.What’sit. BMilk tastes very like ice cream without alot of vanilla. I wouldn’t drink it but it’s not bad. The main thing is that the Donette likes it!


Crap, I knew I should have gone to the bookshelf before I pushed submit.

Cow’s Milk 3.7% fat 3.4% protein 4.6% lactose
Human Milk 3.6% fat .9% protein 7.0% lactose
Goat’s Milk 4.5% fat 2.9% protein 4.1% lactose

Actually horse milk is the closest to human in terms of having enough lactose and not too much protein. But horses aren’t a great dairy animal.

It is generally less allergenic than cow’s milk. I believe it is because the proteins found in it are more like those found in human milk.

If that protein number is correct for the human milk, that’s a good argument for not drinking it as an adult - crummy protein content.