Our story

The Human Milk Foundation is raising three pillars:

Supply   Support   Science

The HMF was conceived in 2017 by a group of parents, scientists, milk bank experts and doctors. The initial drivers came out of frustration at a lack of support for donor milk provision and countless stories of parents who wanted to access donor milk for their babies, who did not meet the criteria for donor milk use.

Scores of families where breastfeeding was impossible because of the mother facing illness, or being absent altogether, could not dream of accessing donor milk except in very rare circumstances. The vicious circle of disinvestment and consequent lack of research had to be broken.

The first step was to found the UK’s first independent, non-profit human milk bank, the Hearts Milk Bank (http://heartsmilkbank.org), founded by Dr Natalie Shenker and Gillian Weaver. With the twin aims of providing equitable access to donor milk and initiating research, the HMB has rapidly grown to provide screened donor milk to hospital neonatal units across the southeast, London, East Anglia and beyond.

The HMB also provides milk to families in the community – over the first year of operation over 200 litres of milk that could not be used for hospitals has been used by over 10 families. No charge was made, and all milk was provided under the oversight of a healthcare professional. All the babies thrived, and in the cases where the donor milk was used to support the mother to establish her own supply, all the mothers successfully did! Many are still feeding their babies now.

Alongside the provision of milk, the milk bank team started to initiate research, including ground-breaking work into the composition of human milk over the course of natural term lactation. This is only the start of a range of research projects, with truly global impact.

Grants from the Human Milk Foundation can fund research, fund education, fund donor milk. Please help to support our work.


The three pillars of the HMF

Our aims

  1. To support parents to feed their babies with human milk
  2. To supply information, education and training across the fields of human milk
  3. To fund ground-breaking projects in human milk science


Dr James Flanagan

Interim Chair

James is a Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London whose research focusses on epigenetics in breast and ovarian cancer risk. With over 20 years’ experience in academic research his role on the board of trustees is to support the research strategy of the HMF.

Dr Natalie Shenker


Natalie is an Oxford-trained doctor and researcher, with interests in developmental biology and cancer risk. She cofounded the Hearts Milk Bank in 2016.

Kelly Kent


With 10 years of fundraising experience, Kelly is now Head of Philanthropy at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

Expert Advisors

Gillian Weaver

Gillian has worked in milk banking and dietetics for over 30 years. She acts as a consultant for NGOs and governments globally, and is past President of the European Milk Bank Association.

Flic Webster

Flic has over 13 years' experience in digital marketing. With a psychology degree, and having previously worked in the NHS, Flic has a particular passion for campaigns that make a positive difference to people’s lives and is proud to be producing creative for the HMF to change conversations about human milk.

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