25 Years of Research in Human Lactation: From Discovery to Translation

Nutrients. 2021 Aug 31;13(9):3071. doi: 10.3390/nu13093071.


Researchers have recently called for human lactation research to be conceptualized as a biological framework where maternal and infant factors impacting human milk, in terms of composition, volume and energy content are studied along with relationships to infant growth, development and health. This approach allows for the development of evidence-based interventions that are more likely to support breastfeeding and lactation in pursuit of global breastfeeding goals. Here we summarize the seminal findings of our research programme using a biological systems approach traversing breast anatomy, milk secretion, physiology of milk removal with respect to breastfeeding and expression, milk composition and infant intake, and infant gastric emptying, culminating in the exploration of relationships with infant growth, development of body composition, and health. This approach has allowed the translation of the findings with respect to education, and clinical practice. It also sets a foundation for improved study design for future investigations in human lactation.

Keywords: breast; breastfeeding; human milk; infant feeding; lactation; milk composition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankyloglossia / epidemiology
  • Body Composition
  • Breast / anatomy & histology
  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation*
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*