© Aurimas Mikalauskas
© Aurimas Mikalauskas

EU-funded researcher studies breast milk impact

UK-based, EU-funded researcher Dr Tanya Cassidy plans to find out about the medical risks of donated breast milk.

The number of babies born prematurely continues to rise and the list of milk banks in Europe has also grown.

Europeans also top the list for the highest amounts of alcohol consumed in the world, which may have an effect on breast milk.

Research points to the importance of human milk for premature babies, but many of their mothers experience lactation problems immediately after birth. Milk banks, which collect, screen, store, process and distribute breast milk provided by donors, play a crucial role in meeting this need.

Clinicians, however, are concerned that the high levels of alcohol consumption among European women of childbearing age may compromise donations. Using interviews, archival data and ethnographic studies, the EU-funded MUIMME (Milk Banking and the Uncertain Interaction between Maternal Milk and Ethanol) project will examine milk banking, focusing in particular on the issue of trust.

‘Muimme’ is an old Irish word meaning ‘wet nurse’.

Cassidy, is returning to academia following a maternity/career break through the MUIMME project, which is funded through the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions ‘career restart’ fellowship.

Professor Fiona Dykes, director of the Maternal and Infant Nutrition and Nurture (MAINN) unit, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), will supervise Cassidy’s research – a qualitative investigation of issues related to donor human milk banking (DHMBing) and lifestyle issues.

A total grant of €195,454 has been committed to the research.