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Open Access Open Badges Methodology

A method for standardizing the fat content of human milk for use in the neonatal intensive care unit

Charles Czank1*, Karen Simmer2 and Peter E Hartmann1

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Biomedical, Biochemical and Chemical Science, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

2 Neonatal Clinical Care Unit, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2009, 4:3  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-4-3

Published: 16 April 2009



Accurately targeting the nutritional needs of the early preterm infant is challenging when human milk is used due to the natural variation in energy composition. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate a simple method for reducing the variation in fat and energy content of human milk prior to fortification such that the infant receives a diet of known composition.


Milk was centrifuged at low speed to concentrate the fat into a cream layer and a predetermined volume of skim milk is removed to meet a specific fat concentration. The fat layer is then resuspended to produce reconstituted milk of a specified standard fat content.


Using this method it was possible to reduce the coefficient of variation in fat content of six different samples of donor human milk from 19.3% to 2.6%. As fat globule size may be associated with fat absorption, the effect that centrifugation and resuspension had on human milk fat globule distribution was assessed by laser diffraction particle sizing. No difference in the particle distribution of the treated and untreated human milk was observed.


This method is accurate and simple, allowing for integration alongside current milk bank and NICU practices for use with both donor human milk and mother's own milk.