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Investigation of Short-term Variations in Casein and Whey Proteins in Breast Milk of Term Mothers

Khan, Sadaf; Casadio, Ylenia S.; Lai, Ching T.; Prime, Danielle K.; Hepworth, Anna R.; Trengove, Naomi J.; Hartmann, Peter E.

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: August 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 2 - p 136–141
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31824cf386
Original Articles: Hepatology and Nutrition

Objectives: We investigated changes in breast milk whey and casein proteins, between fore and hind milk during breast expression, between breasts and within 24-hour period during breast-feeding. This has implications for developing an appropriate sampling protocol for investigating the influence of milk composition on gastric emptying and infants’ feeding behaviour.

Methods: Breast milk samples were collected from mothers (n = 25) of healthy term infants ages 1 to 8 months. A total of 17 mothers provided fore and hind milk samples, which were collected during simultaneous expression of both breasts. Fifteen mothers provided samples from each breast-feed during 24-hour period, of which samples were selected from 4 time points (morning, day, evening, night). Whey and casein were isolated from skim milk, and protein concentration of the skim, whey, and casein fractions were determined.

Results: Mean protein concentrations were found to be 13.5 ± 2.1 (skim milk), 7.6 ± 1.5 (whey), and 3.4 ± 0.97 g/L (casein). Protein concentrations were not significantly different between fore and hind milk. During a 24-hour period, no significant differences were found in protein concentration of any fraction at the 4 time points or between left and right breasts. Large variations were seen between mothers with coefficient of variances of 15.5%, 19.8%, and 28.4% for skim milk, whey, and casein, respectively.

Conclusions: Although there was wide variation between mothers, the small variations within mothers indicate that for sampling purposes, a single breast milk sample (fore or hind from each breast at any time point of the day) will be representative of that mother's protein concentration of skim, whey, and casein fractions for that day.

School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sadaf Khan, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Western Australia, Crawley 6009, Western Australia, Australia (e-mail:

Received 3 May, 2011

Accepted 25 January, 2012

The present study was supported by the Higher Education Commission (Pakistan) and Medela AG (Switzerland).

The authors report no conflict of interest.

© 2012 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,