Review of Preterm Human-Milk Nutrient Composition

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: The human milk–fed preterm infant is at risk for growth failure, micronutrient deficiencies, and neurocognitive delay. Although protective and better tolerated than formula, human milk alone cannot meet the high nutrient requirements of this population, and fortification is necessary. Clinicians use assumptions of preterm human-milk composition to determine the type and quantity of fortification. Objectives: The objectives of this review were to identify evidence of macronutrient and micronutrient concentration in preterm human milk and to identify knowledge gaps regarding composition. Methods: PubMed and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature were used to identify original articles published between January 1950 and December 2019. Results: Twenty-seven articles were found containing original data on macronutrients and micronutrients. Most (67%) of the studies published after 2011 measured the macronutrients and included gestational ages from 28 to 36 weeks. Milk collection methods, experimental design, and analytical methods varied between studies. There are 15 countries represented in this review; all of the American studies (n = 7) were published from 1980 to 1984. Conclusions: African American women, or women delivering before 28 weeks’ gestation are not represented in the literature. Accurate and targeted human-milk fortification depends on comprehensive, complete, and representative human-milk nutrient data. We have aggregated all available preterm human-milk macronutrient and micronutrient data and reported trends associated with lactation stage and gestational age. This report can aid in the design of feeding plans that are appropriate for the gestational age of the preterm infant and the lactation stage of the breastmilk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1172
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • human milk
  • human-milk fortification
  • macronutrients
  • micronutrients
  • premature infant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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