Protein ingested with breast milk provides indispensable amino acids which are necessary for new protein synthesis for growth and replacement of losses via urine, feces, and the skin. Protein gain in the body of an infant is highest during the first months when protein concentrations in breast milk are higher than during later stages of lactation. Low- birth-weight infants have higher protein needs than term infants and need protein supplements during feeding with breastmilk.
Based on our better understanding of protein evolution in breastmilk during the stages of lactation, new infant formulas with lower protein concentration but better protein quality have been created, successfully tested, and are now available in many countries. Besides providing indispensable amino acids, bioactive protein in breast milk can be broadly classified into 4 major functions, that is, providing protection from microbial insults and immune protection, aiding in digestive functions, gut development, and being carriers for other nutrients.
Individual proteins and their proposed bioactivities are summarized in this paper in brief. Indeed, some proteins like lactoferrin and sIgA have been extensively studied for their biological functions, whereas others may require more data in support to further validate their proposed functions.