Macronutrient variability in human milk from donors to a milk bank: Implications for feeding preterm infants
Background and objective: The composition of human milk varies widely and impacts the ability to meet nutrient requirements for preterm infants. The purpose of this study is to use a large dataset of milk composition from donors to a milk bank to: (1) describe the macronutrient variability in human milk and how it contributes to the ability to meet the protein and calorie targets for the preterm infant using fortification with commercially available multi-nutrient fortifiers; (2) assess how temporal versus subject effects explain macronutrient variability; (3) determine how macronutrient variability contributes to the nutrient distribution in pooled donor milk. Methods: This is a retrospective, observational study that analyzes the macronutrient data of 1,119 human milk samples from 443 individual donors to a milk bank. We test fortification strategies with potential basic, intermediate, and high protein and calorie commercial fortifiers. Additionally, we simulate the random pooling of multiple donors to model the impact of macronutrient variability on pooled donor milk. Results: Fat was the most variable nutrient and accounted for 80% of the difference in calories. A subject-effect predicted more of the variability after 4 weeks postpartum in all macronutrients (R2 > = 0.50) than a time-effect (R2 < = 0.28). When pooling multiple donors, variability was reduced by increasing the number of donors randomly selected for a pool or targeted pooling based on macronutrient analysis of donor pools. Over 75% of mature milk samples fortified with a basic protein fortifier did not meet daily protein targets of 3.5 g/kg without exceeding volumes of 160 ml/kg/day. Conclusion: There is a strong individual signature to human milk that impacts the pooling of donor milk, and the ability to meet protein and energy requirements for the preterm infant with basic and intermediate protein and calorie fortifiers.