Rapid measurement of human milk macronutrients in the neonatal intensive care unit: Accuracy and precision of fourier transform mid-infrared spectroscopy

Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Deborah S. Gho, Majid Mirmiran, J. Bruce German, Mark Underwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


Background: Although it is well established that human milk varies widely in macronutrient content, it remains common for human milk fortification for premature infants to be based on historic mean values. As a result, those caring for premature infants often underestimate protein intake. Rapid precise measurement of human milk protein, fat, and lactose to allow individualized fortification has been proposed for decades but remains elusive due to technical challenges. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the accuracy and precision of a Fourier transform (FT) mid-infrared (IR) spectroscope in the neonatal intensive care unit to measure human milk fat, total protein, lactose, and calculated energy compared with standard chemical analyses. Methods: One hundred sixteen breast milk samples across lactation stages from women who delivered at term (n = 69) and preterm (n = 5) were analyzed with the FT mid-IR spectroscope and with standard chemical methods. Ten of the samples were tested in replicate using the FT mid-IR spectroscope to determine repeatability. Results: The agreement between the FT mid-IR spectroscope analysis and reference methods was high for protein and fat and moderate for lactose and energy. The intra-assay coefficients of variation for all outcomes were less than 3%. Conclusion: The FT mid-IR spectroscope demonstrated high accuracy in measurement of total protein and fat of preterm and term milk with high precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-189
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014



  • Breast milk
  • Breastfeeding
  • Fat
  • Fourier transform
  • Lactose
  • Mid-infrared spectroscopy
  • Nutrition
  • Point-of-care testing
  • Preterm infants
  • Protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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