Infant formula vs Breast milk

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Infant formula vs Breast milkThere are a number of differences between breast milk and formula milk. If taking into account the various brands of formula milk and the way in which breast milk changes it is near impossible to compare fully. Below are some general comparisons that should highlight the main differences between breast milk and formula milk.

Composition comparison

There is no exact measurement of breast milk available as it varies from day to day. A number of things influence exactly what the make up will be, such as what the mother has eaten, the environment and so on. Breast milk also changes between the start of a feed and the end of a feed. Initially foremilk, which is low in fat and thirst quenching and higher in carbohydrates than the later hind milk, which is the thicker filling milk.

Other long term factors that affect breast milk include how long since giving birth. Just after birth colostrum is produced, a thin yellowish fluid that is rich in protein and antibodies. A few days after giving birth the breasts will start producing milk that is much sweeter and watery. This watery milk quenches the little ones thirst and provides a number of minerals, proteins and sugar that the baby needs. Eventually as more time passes breast milk becomes much thicker and creamy which can satisfy the babies hunger.

Composition of milk (grams per 100 ml)
Breast Milk Formula Milk Change
Fat ~ 4.5% ~ 3.5%
Fatty acids trace
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 14 %
Protein ~ 0.9% ~ 1.4 %
Casein 0.300 0.600 Up
lactoferrin (apo-lactoferrin) 0.200 Down
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) 0.100
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) 0.001
lysozyme 0.050 Down
serum alburmin 0.050
α-lactalbumin 0.300
Carbohydrate ~ 7.1% ~ 7%
lactose 7.000 6.800
oligosaccharides 0.500 Down
Minerals ~ 0.2% ~ 0.3
Calcium 0.030 0.060 Down
Phosphorus 0.014 0.033 Up
Potassium 0.055 0.075 Up
Chlorine 0.043 0.040
Energy 280 kJ 270 kJ
67 kcal 66 kcal
Digestive enzymes Y N Down
Fibre N 0.300 Up
Prebiotics Y N Down
Probiotics Y N Down

Both breast milk and formula milk contain a number of other minerals such as zinc, copper, iodine and vitamins a, b, c etc. The amounts are very small though so for the purpose of comparison are treated identical.


While formula does not last once it has been mixed with water, the power will keep for some time. Usually once a pack of formula has been opened it should be used within three to four weeks. Unopened formula can keep for up to a year or more (note the best before date on the packaging)

Temperature Breast Milk Formula Milk
In a room 25°C 77°F 6 – 8 hours 2 hours
Insulated bag with ice 12 – 24 hours 2 hours
Refrigerator 4°C 39°F 5 days
Freezer compartment -15°C 5°F 2 weeks
Chest Freezer -20°C -4°F 6 – 12 months

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