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Our 'Human Milk, Tailor-Made for Tiny Humans' advert. Click on 'CC' (bottom right of the video) for more languages.

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is central to the lasting health of our species and of our planet. It is increasingly being positioned as both an urgent public health and a climate justice issue, and the astonishing contents of human milk show us why.

 

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, continued alongside other food and drinks until at least the child’s second birthday.

 

But an estimated 823,000 infants die globally each year because they are not being breastfed and protected by the components in human milk,

alongside 20,000 women who would survive breast cancer.

Wherever women live in the world, lower breastfeeding rates are associated with an increase in breast and reproductive cancers, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and postnatal depression.

It also takes 5,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of alternative milk powder, as well as the financial and ecological cost of global transport, packaging and waste.

Women are passionate about breastfeeding with good reason.

 

Most mothers want to breastfeed, but many are interrupted by various social and environmental elements. The responsibility must not rest on individual mothers. 

We believe that knowledge of the science of human milk and breastfeeding is key to families, friends, healthcare professionals and the general public fully understanding why breastfeeding matters so much and to breastfeeding mothers being actively supported.

Mothers report to us that learning about their milk has deepened their confidence, their connection to themselves, to their baby, their body, their choice to breastfeed, and often to the people they rely on for support.

The composition of human milk can help us make sense of it all:

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Dutch researchers find Covid-19 antibodies in human milk

‘We think when drinking the milk, the antibodies attach themselves to the surface of our mucous membranes,’ Hans van Goudoever, head of the Emma children’s hospital at the UMC, said. ‘Then they attack the virus particles

before they force their way into the body.’

Lactoferrin in breastmilk, a Human Milk poster

Human milk contains stem cells. These are cells that create and repair the body, and are being researched worldwide to cure conditions like Alzheimers and diabetes.

Oxytocin in breastmilk, a Human Milk poster

The composition of human milk changes throughout the day, the night, the months and the years, to meet your child's needs.

The biologically normal age for humans to breastfeed until is anywhere between around 2 and 7+ years old. This is only surprising in cultures that tend to interrupt breastfeeding early, often having lost the knowledge of what our biological norms are, in favour of cultural norms.

Oligosaccharides in breastmilk, a Human Milk poster
Antibodies in breastmilk, a Human Milk poster

“There is a widespread misconception that breastmilk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences and that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. The importance of tackling this global issue is greater now than ever before.”

Professor César Victora, Lancet Author, 2016

You can download all our educational materials free of charge on our Download Resources page.

Scroll down to see the research references.

Human Milk Clothing signature tote bag

Spread the word!

You can download all our education materials, including the advert, infographic, and more on our Education Resources page.

 

This is free of charge because we know that breastfeeding support is often under/un-funded, and we want everyone to have equitable access to our materials.

Purchases from our shop fuel this offer. Spread the word!

 

And thank you for helping us to make the science of human milk and breastfeeding common knowledge. 

Our Human Milk infographic (top of page) represents the known components of human milk. Many of the components named divide into hundreds more. It was designed by Hilda Allen, whilst feeding her then 1 year old (literally), and is used across the world for training and education. You can download it in several formats on our 'Download Resources' page, and purchase posters on our shop.


The science on the infographic and on our other resources was collated in collaboration with Dr Natalie Shenker at  The Human Milk Foundation, Dr Lars Bode, Dr Meghan Azad, Dr Olivia Bibollet-Bahena, and Laurel Wilson BSc IBCLC.  One third of the profits from our infographic posters go to The Human Milk Foundation.

References

Research supporting the information in our advert, education, and social media content.

 

“Nature has been researching your milk for hundreds of millions of years”

  • Capuco AV, Akers RM. The origin and evolution of lactation. J Biol. 2009; 8(4): 37.

  • Oftedal OT. The mammary gland and its origin during synapsid evolution. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2002; 7(3): 225–52.

  • Oftedal OT. The origin of lactation as a water source for parchment-shelled eggs. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2002; 7(3): 253-66.

  • Oftedal OT, Dhouially D. Evo-Devo of the Mammary Gland. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia. 2013; 18: 105-120.

  • Capuco AV, Akers RM. The origin and evolution of lactation. Journal of Biology. 2009; 8(4): 37.

  • Goldman AS. Evolution of the mammary gland defense system and the ontogeny of the immune system. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2002; 7: 277–289.

 

“Your milk contains ingredients that kill cancerous cells”

  • Gustafsson L, Hallgren O, Mossberg AK, et al. HAMLET kills tumour cells by apoptosis: structure, cellular mechanisms, and therapy. J Nutr. 2005; 135: 1299-1303.

  • Håkansson A, Zhivotovsky B, Orrenius S, Sabharwal H, Svanborg C. Apoptosis induced by a human milk protein. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995; 92(17): 8064-8.

  • Hallgren O, Aits S, Brest P, Gustafsson L, Mossberg AK, Wullt B, Svanborg C. Apoptosis and tumor cell death in response to HAMLET (human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells). Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008; 606: 217-40.

  • Hakansson AP, Roche-Hakansson H, Mossberg AK, Svanborg C. Apoptosis-like death in bacteria induced by HAMLET, a human milk lipid-protein complex. PLoS One. 2011; 6(3): e17717.

  • Kataev A, Zherelova O, Grishchenko V. A Characeae Cells Plasma Membrane as a Model for Selection of Bioactive Compounds and Drugs: Interaction of HAMLET-Like Complexes with Ion Channels of Chara corallina Cells Plasmalemma. J Membr Biol. 2016; 249(6): 801-811.

  • Jiang R, Du X, Lönnerdal B. Comparison of bioactivities of talactoferrin and lactoferrins from human and bovine milk. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014; 59(5): 642-52.

  • Hill DR, Newburg DS. Clinical applications of bioactive milk components. Nutr Rev. 2015; 73(7): 463-76.

  • Vogel HJ. Lactoferrin, a bird's eye view. Biochem Cell Biol. 2012; 90(3): 233-44.

 

“Your milk contains stem cells. These are cells that create and repair the body, and are being researched worldwide to cure conditions like Alzheimers and diabetes.”

  • Cregan MD, Fan Y, Appelbee A, et al. Identification of nestin-positive putative mammary stem cells in human breastmilk. Cell Tissue Res. 2007; 329: 129-136.

  • Hassiotou F, Beltran A, Chewynd E, et al. Breastmilk is a novel source of stem cells with multilineage differentiation potential. Stem Cells. 2012; 30(10): 2164-74.

  • Briere CE, McGrath JM, Jensen T, Matson A, Finck C. Breast Milk Stem Cells: Current Science and Implications for Preterm Infants. Adv Neonatal Care. 2016; 16(6): 410-419.

  • Twigger AJ, Hepworth AR, Lai CT, Chetwynd E, Stuebe AM, Blancafort P, Hartmann PE, Geddes DT, Kakulas F. Gene expression in breastmilk cells is associated with maternal and infant characteristics. Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 12933.

  • Choi SS, Lee SR, Lee HJ. Neurorestorative Role of Stem Cells in Alzheimer's Disease: Astrocyte Involvement. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2016; 13(4): 419-27.

  • Lilly MA, Davis MF, Fabie JE, Terhune EB, Gallicano GI. Current stem cell based therapies in diabetes. Am J Stem Cells. 2016; 5(3): 87-98.

  • Cheng SK, Park EY, Pehar A, Rooney AC, Gallicano GI. Current progress of human trials using stem cell therapy as a treatment for diabetes mellitus. Am J Stem Cells. 2016; 5(3): 74-86.

 

“Your body identifies bacteria and viruses found in your baby's body and environment. You then produce antibodies specifically tailored for those infections, and deliver them to your baby through your milk. The more milk she drinks, the more antibodies she receives.”

 

“Your milk appears to switch on a gene in your baby’s body, which produces a hormone called Leptin. This hormone tells your baby when his tummy is full, protecting him against over eating.” and "Your milk contains Leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite by telling our brain when our body has received enough food to generate the energy we need. Moreover, molecules in breastmilk called MicroRNAs influence the expression of our babies’ genes. It appears that these Micro-RNAs switch on the gene in our baby’s body that produces our baby’s own leptin, assisting in our child’s life-long appetite regulation."

 

“Your milk contains Oxytocin, a hormone that induces relaxation, and feelings of well-being in your child and in you.”

  • Unvas-Moberg K. Oxytocin linked antistress effects: The relaxation and growth effect. Acta Physiol Scand Supp. 1997; 640: 38-42.

  • Groer M, Davis MW. Postpartum stress: current concepts and the possible protective role of breastfeeding. JOGN Nursing. 2002; 31: 411-417.

  • Winberg J. Mother and newborn baby: mutual regulation of physiology and behaviour - a selective review. Dev Phychobiol. 2005; 47(3): 217-229.

  • Strathearn L. Maternal neglect: oxytocin, dopamine and the neurobiology of attachment. J Neuroendocrinol. 2011; 23(1): 1054-1065.

  • Vargas-Martínez F, Schanler RJ, Abrams SA, Hawthorne KM, Landers S, Guzman-Bárcenas J, Muñoz O, Henriksen T, Petersson M, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Jiménez-Estrada I. Oxytocin, a main breastfeeding hormone, prevents hypertension acquired in utero: A therapeutics preview. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2017; 1861(1 Pt A): 3071-3084.

  • Jonas W, Woodside B. Physiological mechanisms, behavioral and psychological factors influencing the transfer of milk from mothers to their young. Horm Behav. 2016; 77: 167-81.

"Human milk contains Gangliosides, molecules critical to normal brain development. They help nerves to repair themselves, and cells to communicate with each other. A decrease in the levels of gangliosides in the brain has been reported in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease."

"Human milk contains Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): An omega-3 fatty acid with an important role in nerve tissue and brain development, particularly with association and short term memory. It also plays a role in the formation of the retina (part of the eye), skin and testicles. The more the mother consumes, through for example certain fish like salmon, or through supplements, the more DHA is found in her milk".

"The natural terms for us humans to breastfeed until is anywhere between the ages of around 2 and 7+ years old". "Longer term breastfeeding is also associated with reduced risk of diseases for the mother, including breast cancer".

"Your milk contains macrophages, cells that detect, engulf and destroy harmful pathogens and cells, including tumour cells. They increase in number when your baby is ill." "Your milk contains Phagocytes, a set of immune cells that detect, surround, absorb and destroy harmful molecules and organisms."

"Your milk contains Leukocytes, white blood cells that locate infections and diseases and defend your babies against parasites, cancer cells, debris, viruses, fungi and even allergens."

"Your baby suckling at your breast is what stimulates the production of your milk. Especially in the first month or so, letting your baby suckle whenever they want to, including at night, is essential to establishing a good supply."

 

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