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Developing nutritional guidelines for human breast milk bank donors

Department of Life Sciences

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Dr S Dyall , Dr Y Jeanes Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Appropriate nutrition is particularly important for preterm infants, since their maternal nutrient supply has been prematurely interrupted. For example, during the last trimester, the brain weight increases approximately five-fold and around 80% of the brain docosahexaenoic (DHA) and arachidonic (ARA) acids are accumulated. We have previously shown that extremely preterm infants are at risk of deficiencies in intake of DHA and ARA, and we are looking at ways to optimise their intake (De Rooy et al. 2017). For preterm infants, mother’s own breast milk is the preferred feeding choice; however, if mothers are unable to provide breast milk, donor human milk from a human milk bank is the best alternative. Breast milk provides macronutrients and micronutrients, immunological factors, hormones, enzymes, growths factors, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other biologically active compounds, essential for the infant’s development. The DHA content of breast milk is highly responsive to maternal dietary intake, but currently human milk banks do not provide specific nutritional guidance to donors. This project will extend previous research and aims to understand nutritional resource preferences of breast milk donors, with the long-term goal of developing standardised nutritional resources for human milk banks. This very interdisciplinary project brings together areas of Nutrition, Neuroscience, and Psychology.


De Rooy L., Hamdallah H., Dyall S.C. (2017): Extremely preterm infants receiving standard care receive very low levels of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids. Clinical Nutrition 36: 1593-1600
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