What is the important nutrient in milk powder?

What is in the milk powder that mimic breast milk? Let us find out the important nutrient in milk powder.

Nowadays, you will see a lot of milk powder products (baby formula) in the market for the growing children and you wonder how to choose the right one for your little one? Well, by reading the ingredients and the nutrients’ information in the label, probably you as a parent may have not been familiar with before. Besides, protein and calcium are the two major nutrients’ you can find in the milk powder, what are the other important nutrients’ you should be aware of when you come to choose the right milk powder for your children?

Infant formula attempts to mimic the nutritional composition of breast milk as closely as possible, and is based on cow’s milk or soy milk. If breastfeeding is not possible, infant milk powder is the best alternative of breast milk.

What is in the milk powder?


Babies who are not breastfed need to get sufficient nutrients’ for their growth and development from other food source. Infant formula is the only choice to maintain their daily nutritious need for babies less than 6 months of age if they are not breastfed due to some reason. For babies more than 6 months of age or older, their nutrients’ can be obtained when they start solid food.

In this article, I will be sharing with you the important nutrients’ you should know in milk powder or infant formula before you decide which brand of the milk powder is the right one for your little one.

What is in the milk powder?


Calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth. Enough daily intake for children will maintain their good nerve and muscle function, helping blood to clot and activating the enzymes that convert food into energy. However, excessive of calcium intake for young children will result in damage in kidneys and impair the absorption of zinc, magnesium and iron.


There are two classes of protein – whey and casein. In human breast milk, whey and casein ration is 70/30 or 80/20 depend on the stages of milk. Casein will become clots or curds in the stomach and whey which will remain liquid in the stomach. Human breast milk normally is high in whey protein and therefore it makes it easier to digest. Traditionally, infant formula is made with high casein protein content which is harder to digest compared with human breast milk. However, some infant formulas have been supplemented with bio active protein such as lactoferrin which is useful to prevent infants from illness.

In the product specification, formula with protein content for normal full term babies is measured as 2.0g/100ml or protein/ energy ratio of <3g/100kcal. Higher protein content, about 2.9g/100ml or protein/energy ratio of 3.5g/100kcal for preterm babies or low weight birth babies. Some studies showed that high protein content may lead to obesity or excess weight gain in the future.

Children need protein to help them build and repair cells, enzymes and hormones and to provide energy. It also helps to form new blood cells and body tissues and ensure the nervous system function properly.

Fatty acid

The lipid portion in infant formula supplies the major energy and helping the development of central nervous system for the growing infants. Milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) can be found as a supplement in certain formula in the market. It contains bio active components which play important role in brain development and cognitive function, immunity and gut health, and cardiovascular health.


Taurine exists in human breast milk naturally especially highest in colostrum (human first milk). Cow’s milk has relatively much lower content of taurine than in human breast milk. For young infant, taurine is temporarily essential nutrients’ for the first few weeks due to their immature liver function, helps infant to absorb fat from gastrointestinal tract and ensure the liver is capable of dealing with the waste product efficiently. For preterm babies or low weight birth babies, they need taurine content much longer period if they do not get human breast milk.

There are evidences to show deficiency in taurine content may adversely affect the neurodevelopment of preterm babies and therefore, taurine is an essential nutrient to be added in preterm baby formula. Taurine is an important amino acid which also helps to improve effectiveness of heart muscle contractions, protect the nerves from damage especially in the eyes and ears.


Lutein help protect the functions of the eyes and brain. It is found to protect the retina, which is an extension of the brain by absorbing damaging blue light. It is also an antioxidant that protect the brain from free radicals.

Some studies showed that lutein fortified infant formula does not affect the growth and development of babies. In other words, those infants are fed with standard infant formula (which is not fortified with lutein) has similar growth to that lutein fortified formula fed babies.


DHA is known as Docosahexaenoic Acid, and ARA is known as Arachidonic acid. Both are important in brain development. These nutrients’ are important especially the little ones undergo rapid brain growth throughout the first few years of life.

It is also beneficial for regulating growth, inflammatory responses, immune function, vision, cognitive development and motor systems in newborns.

Probiotics & prebiotics

Probiotics have a long list of health benefits for babies. It is used to prevent constipation by improving the gut’s health and it is useful for effective colic relief for certain babies and reduced the risk of allergies.

2 Fl Human milk oligaosaccharides (HMO), a prebiotics is added in some milk powder for infant gut’s health and proven to have similar immune response to breastfed babies.


Some nutrients’ may be still showing mixed or inconclusive result in research but they generally provide the children the nutritious need for your child to thrive. Rest assures that all the infant formula in the market are under strict guideline regulated by the government and they are safe to consume regardless they are premium or non premium formula.

If your child is having specific medical condition, allergies and lactose intolerance or poor weight gain, please consult your pediatrician for the right formula.

For babies who start to consume solid food, no milk powder should take place of daily balanced diet with variety of food choice to ensure your child gets all the nutrients’ need for growth during their development stage.

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Happy reading!

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