Why we fund research

We are delighted to present the Human Milk Foundation’s first research strategy, which has been developed by the Trustees with contributions from the wider scientific community. This strategy will take us towards our vision which is to provide the evidence needed to support changes in the use of donor milk to help more families feed their babies with human milk.

How will we do this? We aim to bring together milk donors, patients, mothers and families and our supporters with researchers and healthcare professionals to fund world-class research.

As the charity grows, so too will our ambition for funding research with a wider remit and with a wider range of funding opportunities. We will fund the consumables to conduct research with pilot studies and larger project studies, and we aim to train the next generation of researchers by funding PhD studentships.

Our supporters and fundraisers mean a lot to us, and we will strive to meet the rigorous standards required by UK regulatory bodies for charity funding of research to make the best use of the money raised. Within the time-frame of this 5-year Research Strategy we hope to see the first steps in the direction of our vision.

Together, we can nourish change, and make the discoveries that will help more families feed their babies with human milk.

Why this work is important

One of the key aims of the HMF is to advance education and research in the field of health in particular but not limited to the understanding of human milk. We hope to disseminate the results of such research to help achieve the aims of this charity which are to support the families that need donor milk, to provide education about breastfeeding and the use of donor milk and to improve human health.

We believe in evidence-based medicine and evidence-based advice when it comes to infant feeding and understanding the impacts on health and wider society of the use of donor milk.

Our key objectives

We aim to support groundbreaking science focusing on our four key objectives.
The BAPM Report in 2016 highlighted a list of key areas of research, which includes suggestions for research that fall within these four objectives:

Investigate use of donor milk

To investigate the evidence for the use of donor milk and how that impacts on infant health, maternal physical and mental health, and breastfeeding rates

Understanding human milk

To understand the composition and variability of human milk within and across individuals and populations, and how donor milk may be used as a therapeutic tool.

Environmental impacts

To understand the health economic, psychosocial and environmental impacts of donor milk availability and use

Milk preparation

To understand optimal procedures for the preparation and use of donor milk

Our Scientific Purpose:

Our vision is a future where families who wish to are able to feed their babies with human milk. When breastfeeding is not possible, the Human Milk Foundation is working to enable equitable access to safe, screened donor milk to sick, premature babies in NICUs, and to families at home. Our mission is to fund ground-breaking projects in human milk science and support their wider communication.

Our Governance:

The Research Committee is drawn from parents and experts with experience of managing grant calls and high quality research. Governance and safety is at the heart of everything we do. Our operational policies can be found here.

Our Values:

Compassion – we care about all the families we support, and their stories drive us.

Collaboration – we believe in working together to make a better future.

Communication – we pledge to ensure the science of human milk is freely accessible.

Scope and Remit

Currently we are funding pilot studies. These studies will provide up to £12,000 over an anticipated 12-month research period. Early stage research career applications are encouraged, as are applications from under-represented and marginalised groups in science and research. At this stage, the scheme is only open to UK-based applications.

Applying for a grant

You can find out more about our grants and access the form to submit a grant application to the HMF here. Please direct any questions about the grant application process to info@humanmilkfoundation.org

Current Researcher

Claire Granger – IGUANA Immunoglobulin A and Neonatal Adaptation. Read more

Click to view publications supported by the team at the Human Milk Foundation:


  • Klotz D, Wesołowska A, Bertino E, Moro GE, Picaud JC, Gayà A, Weaver G. The legislative framework of donor human milk and human milk banking in Europe. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Dec 22:e13310. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13310. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34936203.
  • Wedekind SIS, Shenker NS. Antiviral Properties of Human Milk. Microorganisms. 2021 Mar 31;9(4):715. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9040715. PMID: 33807146; PMCID: PMC8066736.
  • Bramer S, Boyle R, Weaver G, Shenker N: Use of donor human milk in nonhospitalized infants: An infant growth study. Matern Child Nutr 2021:e13128.
  • Tyebally Fang M, Chatzixiros E, Grummer-Strawn L, Engmann C, Israel-Ballard K, Mansen K, O’Connor DL, Unger S, Herson M, Weaver G, Biller-Andorno N. Developing global guidance on human milk banking. Bull World Health Organ. 2021 Dec 1;99(12):892-900. doi: 10.2471/BLT.21.286943. Epub 2021 Oct 20. PMID: 34866685; PMCID: PMC8640695.
  • Price E, Hoffman P, Weaver G, Gilks J, Jones M, O’Brien V, Ridgway G. Importance of following guidance on decontamination of breast pump milk collection kits and related items. J Hosp Infect. 2021 Nov 11:S0195-6701(21)00389-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2021.11.002. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34774974.
  • Kontopodi E, Arslanoglu S, Bernatowicz-Lojko U, Bertino E, Bettinelli ME, Buffin R, Cassidy T, van Elburg RM, Gebauer C, Grovslien A, Hettinga K, Ioannou I, Klotz D, Mileusnić-Milenović R, Moro GE, Picaud JC, Stahl B, Weaver G, van Goudoever JB, Wesolowska A. “Donor milk banking: Improving the future”. A survey on the operation of the European donor human milk banks. PLoS One. 2021 Aug 19;16(8):e0256435. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256435. PMID: 34411191; PMCID: PMC8376009.
  • Brown A, Shenker N. Experiences of breastfeeding during COVID-19: Lessons for future practical and emotional support. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Jan;17(1):e13088. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13088. Epub 2020 Sep 23. PMID: 32969184; PMCID: PMC7537017.
  • Tran HT, Nguyen TT, Barnett D, Weaver G, Nguyen OTX, Van Ngo Q, Le HTT, Huynh LT, Do CT, Mathisen R. Trends and Dynamics in the First Four Years of Operation of the First Human Milk Bank in Vietnam. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 28;13(4):1107. doi: 10.3390/nu13041107. PMID: 33800596; PMCID: PMC8067108.
  • Shenker NS, Wesolowska A, van Goudoever JB, Nangia S, Klotz D. Undermining breastfeeding will not alleviate the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet. 2020 Oct 10;396(10257):1064-1065. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32071-7. PMID: 33038959; PMCID: PMC7544453.
  • Biggs KV, Fidler KJ, Shenker NS, Brown H. Are the doctors of the future ready to support breastfeeding? A cross-sectional study in the UK. Int Breastfeed J. 2020 May 20;15(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s13006-020-00290-z. PMID: 32434558; PMCID: PMC7238622.
  • Shenker N, Staff M, Vickers A, Aprigio J, Tiwari S, Nangia S, Sachdeva RC, Clifford V, Coutsoudis A, Reimers P, Israel-Ballard K, Mansen K, Mileusnic-Milenovic R, Wesolowska A, Goudoever JBV, Hosseini M, Klotz D, Grøvslien AH, Weaver G; Virtual Collaborative Network of Milk Banks and Associations. Maintaining human milk bank services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: A global response. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Jul;17(3):e13131. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13131. Epub 2021 Jan 6. PMID: 33403779; PMCID: PMC7883204.
  • Shenker NS, Perdones-Montero A, Burke A, Stickland S, McDonald JAK, Alexander-Hardiman K, Flanagan J, Takats Z, Cameron SJS. Metabolomic and Metataxonomic Fingerprinting of Human Milk Suggests Compositional Stability over a Natural Term of Breastfeeding to 24 Months. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 11;12(11):3450. doi: 10.3390/nu12113450. PMID: 33187120; PMCID: PMC7697254.
  • Joffe N, Webster F, Shenker N. Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative. BMJ. 2019 Oct 2;367:l5646. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5646. PMID: 31578194.
  • Azad MB, Nickel NC, Bode L, Brockway M, Brown A, Chambers C, Goldhammer C, Hinde K, McGuire M, Munblit D, Patel AL, Pérez-Escamilla R, Rasmussen KM, Shenker N, Young BE, Zuccolo L. Breastfeeding and the origins of health: Interdisciplinary perspectives and priorities. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Apr;17(2):e13109. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13109. Epub 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33210456; PMCID: PMC7988860.
  • Israel-Ballard K, Cohen J, Mansen K, Parker M, Engmann C, Kelley M; Oxford-PATH Human Milk Working Group. Call to action for equitable access to human milk for vulnerable infants. Lancet Glob Health. 2019 Nov;7(11):e1484-e1486. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(19)30402-4. PMID: 31607455.
  • Arslanoglu S, Boquien CY, King C, Lamireau D, Tonetto P, Barnett D, Bertino E, Gaya A, Gebauer C, Grovslien A, Moro GE, Weaver G, Wesolowska AM, Picaud JC. Fortification of Human Milk for Preterm Infants: Update and Recommendations of the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA) Working Group on Human Milk Fortification. Front Pediatr. 2019 Mar 22;7:76. doi: 10.3389/fped.2019.00076. PMID: 30968003; PMCID: PMC6439523.
  • Weaver G, Bertino E, Gebauer C, Grovslien A, Mileusnic-Milenovic R, Arslanoglu S, Barnett D, Boquien CY, Buffin R, Gaya A, Moro GE, Wesolowska A, Picaud JC. Recommendations for the Establishment and Operation of Human Milk Banks in Europe: A Consensus Statement From the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA). Front Pediatr. 2019 Mar 4;7:53. doi: 10.3389/fped.2019.00053. PMID: 30886837; PMCID: PMC6409313.
  • Moro GE, Billeaud C, Rachel B, Calvo J, Cavallarin L, Christen L, Escuder-Vieco D, Gaya A, Lembo D, Wesolowska A, Arslanoglu S, Barnett D, Bertino E, Boquien CY, Gebauer C, Grovslien A, Weaver GA, Picaud JC. Processing of Donor Human Milk: Update and Recommendations From the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA). Front Pediatr. 2019 Feb 28;7:49. doi: 10.3389/fped.2019.00049. PMID: 30873395; PMCID: PMC6403467.
  • Shenker NS. The resurgent influence of big formula. BMJ. 2018 Aug 23;362:k3577. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3577. Erratum in: BMJ. 2018 Aug 28;362:k3678. PMID: 30139927.
  • Reimers P, Shenker N, Weaver G, Coutsoudis A. Using donor human milk to feed vulnerable term infants: a case series in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Int Breastfeed J. 2018;13:43. Published 2018 Sep 10. doi:10.1186/s13006-018-0185-6