Composition and Variation of Macronutrients, Immune Proteins, and Human Milk Oligosaccharides in Human Milk From Nonprofit and Commercial Milk Banks

Laura Meredith-Dennis, Gege Xu, Elisha Goonatilleke, Carlito B Lebrilla, Mark Underwood, Jennifer T. Smilowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Background: When human milk is unavailable, banked milk is recommended for feeding premature infants. Milk banks use processes to eliminate pathogens; however, variability among methods exists. Research aim: The aim of this study was to compare the macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat, energy), immune-protective protein, and human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) content of human milk from three independent milk banks that use pasteurization (Holder vs. vat techniques) or retort sterilization. Methods: Randomly acquired human milk samples from three different milk banks (n = 3 from each bank) were analyzed for macronutrient concentrations using a Fourier transform mid-infrared spectroscopy human milk analyzer. The concentrations of IgA, IgM, IgG, lactoferrin, lysozyme, α-lactalbumin, α antitrypsin, casein, and HMO were analyzed by mass spectrometry. Results: The concentrations of protein and fat were significantly (p <.05) less in the retort sterilized compared with the Holder and vat pasteurized samples, respectively. The concentrations of all immune-modulating proteins were significantly (p <.05) less in the retort sterilized samples compared with vat and/or Holder pasteurized samples. The total HMO concentration and HMOs containing fucose, sialic acid, and nonfucosylated neutral sugars were significantly (p <.05) less in retort sterilized compared with Holder pasteurized samples. Conclusion: Random milk samples that had undergone retort sterilization had significantly less immune-protective proteins and total and specific HMOs compared with samples that had undergone Holder and vat pasteurization. These data suggest that further analysis of the effect of retort sterilization on human milk components is needed prior to widespread adoption of this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 1 2017



  • breastfeeding
  • human milk
  • Human Milk Banking Association of North America
  • infant development
  • late preterm infant
  • milk banking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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