The International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation
The International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation



Dr. Elizabeth Kimani-Murage
African Public Health Research Center

Africa Webinar: Strategies to optimize breastfeeding in Kenya

Optimal breastfeeding has many benefits, including promoting optimal growth, development and health of the child. Despite these benefits, breastfeeding has not been fully optimized in Kenya. Although the proportion of children who were exclusively breastfed in Kenya improved from 32% in 2008 to 61% in the latest national survey in Kenya (2014), we are still below the national target of 75% by 2022. Promising interventions to optimize breastfeeding in Kenya may include global initiatives like the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), the Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI), Human Milk Banking (HMB) and Baby-friendly Workplace Initiative (BFWI). The presentation will focus on the application of these initiatives to optimize breastfeeding in Kenya.

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5:00 PM EAT / 3:00 PM CET / 9:00 AM EST on March 2, 2021


Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla
Professor of Public Health, Director of the Office of Public Health Practice, and Director of the Global Health Concentration at the Yale School of Public Health

Lactancia materna y COVID-19 en América Latina: Lecciones aprendidas y como avanzar (Hosted in Spanish)

Basado en la evidencia acumulada hasta ahora, la Organización Mundial de la Salud sigue indicando que mujeres con COVID-19 pueden amamantar de forma segura a sus bebés y que es muy deseable que lo hagan. Sin embargo, un estudio de monitoreo en México que es nacionalmente representativo muestra que la mayoría de las personas en hogares con niños pequeños piensan que las mujeres con COVID-19 no deben amamantar ya que pueden transmitir el virus SARS-CoV-2 a sus hijos. Esta presentación va a discutir las implicaciones de esto hallazgos para mejorar la diseminación basada en evidencia, utilizando principios de teoría y análisis de redes sociales, sobre la lactancia materna en tiempos de COVID-19 en el contexto de América Latina. También va a presentar hallazgos sobre como programas de consejería de lactancia materna fueron adaptados de forma remota durante la pandemia utilizando métodos de la ciencia de implementación.

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1:00pm EST on February 3, 2021

Dr. Meghan Azad
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, Community Health Sciences, and Immunology, University of Manitoba

Mother’s Milk & Baby’s Bacteria: Discoveries from the CHILD Cohort Study

The CHILD Cohort Study ( is following 3500 Canadian families from pregnancy onwards to understand the developmental origins of chronic diseases. We have shown that breastfeeding is associated with reduced risks of childhood asthma and obesity, and these beneficial effects appear to be partly mediated by the infant gut microbiome. Current research in the Azad Lab ( at the Manitoba Interdisciplinary Lactation Centre ( is focused on understanding how breastfeeding practices and breast milk components (including microbes, oligosaccharides, fatty acids, hormones and cytokines) shape the developing infant microbiome and contribute to health and disease trajectories in the CHILD cohort.

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1:00 PM EDT / 10:00 AM PDT / 7:00 PM CEST on April 14, 2021


Dr. Zhenyu Yang
Research Professor, National Institute for Nutrition and Health, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Association between maternal nutritional status and concentration of proteins in human milk in China

Maternal nutritional status changed dramatically with the rapid social and economic development in China. It remains unclear whether maternal nutritional status is related to concentration of various proteins in human milk. The purposes of the current paper were to examine the relationship between maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and concentration of alpha-lactalbumin, beta-casein, lactoferrin, alpha-s1 casein, kappa-casein, serum albumin in human milk.  This was a cross-sectional study. Human milk proteins were measured using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem/mass spectrometry with isotopic dilution. The concentrations of various human milk proteins excluding lactoferrin did not differ among the 3 maternal BMI groups (all P>0.05). Human milk alpha-lactoalbumin, beta-casein, alpha-s1casein, kappa-casein and albumin level may be consistent across different pre-pregnant nutritional status regardless of lactation stage.

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June 29 – 12:00 AM EDT / 6:00 AM CEST / 12:00 PM AWST

Professor Mary E Wlodek
Professor, The University of Melbourne, Visiting Professor, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore

Impact of pregnancy complications on breast milk, breastfeeding and infants: Where are we now?

Infants born from complicated pregnancies often show altered growth during infancy and are at increased risk of NCDs. As the placenta and breast are mediators of nutrient and non-nutritive bioactive factors to the fetus and infant, they have been implicated in pathways programming growth and NCD risk and are the foundation of DOHaD. Breast milk is well-recognized as the ‘first food’ and best nutrition for the baby in the first 6 months of life. Emerging evidence from our pre-clinical models and human studies will be presented to suggest that breast milk health and/or quantity and breastfeeding duration may be altered in women with pregnancy complications impacting breastfeeding duration. Breastfeeding offers a unique and feasible intervention window to improve the health of the baby’s ‘first food’ for the increasing number of infants born to mothers with pregnancy complications.

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May 25, 2021 11:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) / 5:00 AM CEST / 11:00 AM AWST

Associate Professor Dr Zaharah Sulaiman
School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), IBCLC, and a Local Governance Council Member for World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA)

The Understanding and Practical Aspects of Induced Lactation and Wet Nursing (2 presentations)

Induced Lactation: Understanding, Practical Aspects And Motherhood Journey – Associate Professor Dr Zaharah Sulaiman

Induced lactation is a process that enables a nulliparous woman to experience producing breast milk and breastfeeding a child. This precious experience allows her to journey motherhood and feed her adopted infant with breast milk. In this talk I am sharing the expectation vs reality and the fact vs myth on induced lactation. Not knowing what to expect and not having the right facts about the process of induced lactation significantly affect the ability to produce breast milk. While these issues are discussed, women’s experiences will be shared anonymously to give a better illustration of various scenarios. Take home messages regarding success tips will also be shared.

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12:00 AM EDT / 6:00 AM CEST / 12:00 PM AWST on April 27, 2021

Ms Norsyamlina Che Abdul Rahim, MSc
, Institute for Public Health, National Institutes of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia

The Understanding and Practical Aspects of Induced Lactation and Wet Nursing (2 presentations)

Wet Nursing Practice Among Muslim Mothers – Ms Norsyamlina Che Abdul Rahim, MSc

Since ancient times, breastfeeding and wet nursing have been synonymous. The two current practices of feeding expressed milk from a wet nurse are direct breastfeeding and feeding expressed milk from a wet nurse, and their applicability varies by population. In Islam, certain provisions for wet nursing must be recognised in order to determine an infant’s status as a milk kinship child. The requirements for establishing a legal milk kinship status are related to a woman’s breast milk, the amount of feeding, the baby’s age at the time of feeding, and the mode of feeding. There are several significant consequences, including raising awareness of wet nursing based on the Islamic concept, and its potential benefits.

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12:00 AM EDT / 6:00 AM CEST / 12:00 PM AWST on April 27, 2021

Jayashree Selvalatchmanan, PhD Student
Singapore Lipidomics Incubator (NUS), Agilent Technologies

The Variability of Lipids in Human Milk

Lipids in breastmilk play a critical role in infant growth and development. However, few studies have investigated sources of variability of both high- and low-abundant milk lipids. We measured the levels of 237 lipid species from 13 sub-classes using reversed-phase liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (RP-LCMS) and direct-infusion mass spectrometry (DI-MS) in a cohort of 20 healthy women across two time-points. The presentation will look at the common issues faced with measuring lipids in human milk as well as the inter- and intra-individual variation of the breastmilk lipidome.

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August 31, 2021 12:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) / 6:00 AM CEST / 12:00 PM SGT


Dr. Katharina Lichtner
Managing Director, Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation

From Research to Impact

The Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation is revitalising the journey from science to impact, so countries can break through entrenched challenges and sustain ambitious breastfeeding goals. At FLRF we have a vision – a world in which every child has an optimum start in life through the benefits of breastmilk – so we focus on building efficient, proven pathways to get there. We do this by supporting research and the development of innovative tools and resources that help decisionmakers. The webinar will introduce FLRF’s strategy of how it combines research with more translational approaches and an integration with key goals of the global community. Furthermore, over the last year we have introduced a human centered design as well as a systems thinking approach to our work, which is increasingly influencing our strategic thinking and will influence of how we work in the future.

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6:00 PM CEST / 12:00 PM EDT on May 4, 2021 / 12:00 AM AWST on May 5, 2021

Dr. Merete Eggesbø
Environmental Epidemiologist at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Environmental contaminants in human milk

Since the mid 19th century a booming chemical industry has exposed the human population to an ever increasing load of synthetic chemicals. Of particular concern are the persistent environmental toxicants that accumulate in our bodies, and are transferred to our children during fetal life and breastfeeding. Although the levels of many toxicants have declined during the last 40 years due to the Stockholm convention, we still observe adverse effects of these old “legacy” chemicals, related to reproduction, obesity, neurodevelopment and to the immune system. In parallel, new chemicals are steadily entering the scene. One such group of particular worrisome new chemicals are the perfluorinated chemicals which can be found in water repellent material. A recent Faroese study reported that children with the highest exposure to these chemicals had increased risk of vaccine responses below a clinically protective level. Vaccinations programs prevents an estimated 2.5 million deaths worldwide annually, but a weakened immune system has implication beyond vaccine responses, increasing our susceptibility to infections and carcinogens.

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6:00 PM CEST / 12:00 PM EDT on April 6, 2021

Dr. Steven Townsend
Vanderbilt University

Human Milk Oligosaccharides as Therapeutics

Carbohydrates are the most abundant organic molecules on earth and are critical to a myriad of biological processes. The Vanderbilt Laboratory for Glycoscience uses a blend of synthetic organic chemistry and microbiology to elucidate the biological roles of carbohydrates, with a foci on advances in chemical synthesis and learning new mechanistic concepts. Our discussion will focus on the application of the host defense properties of human milk.

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18:00 CET on February 2, 2021

Dr. Rebecca Powell
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Evidence of a strong and specific antibody response against SARS-CoV-2 in human milk

The SARS-CoV-2 immune response in human milk has not yet been examined, though protecting infants and young children from COVID-19 is critical for limiting community transmission, and preventing serious illness and death. Just as NYC was shutting down in early April 2020 during its COVID-19 peak, the human milk immunology lab headed by Dr. Rebecca Powell at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai began to rapidly enroll local participants into a novel study of the SARS-CoV-2 immune response in human milk. This presentation will describe this study and its early results, which so far indicate a robust antibody response in milk, signifying that continued research is highly warranted to understand if and how breastfed infants are protected by this response, and determine the potential for exploiting extracted milk antibody for therapeutic use.

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18:00 CET on January 5, 2021

Human Milk in the Time of COVID-19

Presented by Prof. Sertac Arslanoglu on Tuesday, Dec 1, 2020.
Following the first reported case in December 2019, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected over 57.8 million people resulting in more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide. COVID-19 in children seems to be milder with respect to adults, yet infants younger than 1 year may present a more severe disease requiring advanced care. Although breast milk is an immune-potent nutrient providing protection against infections thanks to its numerous bioactive components, there are questions regarding its role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.  
This talk, based on the accumulated evidence until now, gives an update on the potential of human milk in SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as well as its promising potential in the protection and treatment of the disease. Furthermore, it addresses the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on breastfeeding and milk banking practices, reviews the current recommendations, and gaps in the scientific evidence, discussing finally the priorities for research in the field. 

Mother's own milk vs. donor milk for preterm infants

Presented by Dr. Hans van Goudoever on Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020.
When mother’s own milk is not available, donor human milk is a good alternative. However, processing the milk, including the multiple freeze and thaw processes and pasteurization does affect the quality of milk. Many differences in processing exists between milk banks, across countries, also in processes that clearly affect the quality. This presentation will give an update on the latest evidence on the efficacy of donor milk, compared to own mother’s milk, including the newest data on SARS-CoV-2 and human donor milk.

Human milk lipids - what do we know?

Presented by Dr. Johann Demmelmair on Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020.
Fat occurs in human milk as milk fat globules and provides about 50% of human milk energy. Although more than 200 fatty acids have been identified in human milk, there are only a limited number of fatty acids with quantitative relevance, but these form a huge number of different lipids. Non polar triglycerides, which contribute more than 98% -wt/wt to the fat, form the core of the milk fat globules. Specific for milk fat is a relatively high content of short and medium chain fatty acids with up to 14 carbon atoms and a strong enrichment of palmitic acid at the sn-2 position. Both factors enhance fat digestibility. Of importance is the content of the essential fatty acids and their long chain polyunsaturated derivatives. They are mainly provided by triglycerides, although their relative percentage may be higher in certain more polar milk lipid fractions. The polar lipids in milk include glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and cholesterol. Quantitatively they are all minor components, but their importance for the development of the infant digestive tract, immune system and cognition has started to be recognized in recent years.

Functions of the milk fat globule membrane in human milk

Presented by Prof Magnus Domellöf, MD, PhD on Tues, Sept 15, 2020.
Breastfeeding is associated with many health benefits in the infant, including improved cognitive development and a reduced risk of infections. Human milk is a complex emulsion of fat globules surrounded by a triple phospholipid membrane, with membrane-bound complex lipids and proteins. Components of this highly complex membrane, the ”milk fat globule membrane” (MFGM) include choline, sphingomyelin, gangliosides, cholesterol, sialic acid, inositol and cerebrosides, which are all involved in brain development. Further, the MFGM contains mucins, butyrophilin, lactadherin, CD14, TLR1, TLR3 and xanthine oxidase, which are all important for immune function. Studies in animals support these associations and recent trials in infants suggest that MFGM may indeed improve neurodevelopment and reduce the risk of infections also in humans. These studies need to be reproduced and further studies are needed to establish the exact mechanisms behind these effects, as well as possible clinical applications.

Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Current Research Activities and Challenges

Presented by Prof. Dr. Clemens Kunz on Tues, August 4, 2020.
In recent years, the interest in human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) is exploding primarily due to the breakthrough in manufacturing HMOs on a large scale which can be used for commercial purposes. Hence, we are at the beginning of a new era in infant nutrition, supplementing infant formula with oligosaccharides occurring naturally in human milk. Although currently only a few HMO are available, the number is steadily increasing. To differentiate between HMOs naturally occurring in human milk and identical but commercially produced components a differing denomination for the latter should be given. The interest of the biotech and dairy industry as well as infant formula companies is enormous which raises many questions with regard to the scientific evidence supporting HMO supplementation, the selection and doses of specific components and the outcomes that should be looked at. As commercially produced HMOs may not be available to or not be used by all companies, there are great efforts to find new strategies to bring the composition of infant formula closer to that of human milk in terms of its oligosaccharide composition. Recently, HMOs have often been described as “galactosylated oligosaccharides“, a definition which is not appropriate as it disregards more important characteristics of HMOs not common to other “galactosylated oligosaccharides“ named as GOS or GOS/FOS. However, it alleviates strategies to add those non-human milk oligosaccharides to infant formula. It seems that the topic “HMO“ is often not only confusing the scientific community but, and even more importantly, commercial strategies may mislead parents looking for an alternative for their child if not breastfed.

The Human Milk Microbiome

Presented by Dr. Maria Carmen Collado on Tues, July 7, 2020. 
Current evidence highlights the key role of early microbial colonization in promoting later health. Perturbations in this colonization process caused by factors such as C-section delivery, antibiotics, prematurity, etc., have been associated to a higher risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) later in life as well as obesity and allergic disease. Human microbial colonization starts at birth when the neonate is exposed to maternal microbiota and continues during lactation. Beyond nutritional aspects, human milk contains bioactive compounds as microorganisms, oligosaccharides and other substances which are involved in host-microbe interactions. Different studies shown that human milk composition is shaped by genetic factors, mode of delivery, maternal nutrition, and also, would differ within feeds, day time, lactation stage and also, between mothers and populations. This lecture is aimed to provide a global overview on milk microbiota composition and activity, factors shaping its composition and their potential biological relevance.

Complementary feeding and commercial complementary food

Presented by Melissa Theurich, BSc , MPH, IBCLC on Tues, June 2, 2020.
Commercial complementary foods are some of the first foods fed to infants in Europe. They make up a substantial proportion of diets of European infants and young children over the first two years of life. This webinar will review European and international recommendations for complementary feeding. It will include results from the European Childhood Obesity Project (CHOP) on the use of the commercial baby foods in 5 European countries as well as results of a national survey of commercial cereals in Germany. Cereals from Germany were found to be poor sources of micronutrients, to be high in sugar, to contain added sugars and labels rarely recommended human milk for reconstitution. Improvements of European commercial baby foods are needed.

COVID-19 and Breastfeeding

Presented by Diane Lynn Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN on Tues, May 5, 2020. 
This presentation will review the various international recommendations and limited research studies related to human milk and breastfeeding and COVID-19 and discuss the conflicting recommendations. Despite conflicting recommendations regarding direct breastfeeding and skin to skin contact, all recommendations support the use of human milk. I will present what interventions we can do to ensure that families are making informed feeding decisions and that we give evidence-based guidance to ensure that mothers effectively establish milk supply.

Eastern Mediterranean

Nikoleta Lugonja, PhD
Assistant Research Professor at the Institute of Chemistry, Technology & Metallury, National Institute at the University of Belgrade Serbia

Research of Human Milk for Feeding Preterm Infants in Serbia

About 4,000 children are born preterm in Serbia every year. Breast milk is both food and medicine for premature babies. The First Serbian Human Milk Bank was established in 2009 at the Institute of Neonatology in Belgrade, sparkling rapid development research on human milk in this region. The collaborative research between the University of Belgrade and the Serbian Human Milk Bank is focused on the quality of milk in its native form and human milk monitoring during storage and pasteurization. Adequate nutrition is essential for preterm infants emphasizing need for comprehensive analysis of human milk properties in Serbia with focus on nutritional properties, antioxidant potential and total chemical, biochemical, prebiotic and probiotic quality of mothers’ milk. Our research on in-vitro model has shown that the human milk exerted direct pharmacological relaxation effects on isolated non-vascular smooth muscle, in addition to detailed analysis of the nutritional and biological values of human milk. Lactation of preterm infants’ mothers has been examined as an additional stimulant for enhanced recovery of mothers and infants. New methods for monitoring the quality of human milk in Serbia have been developed, thus laying a solid foundation for further development and progress of human milk research in Serbia.

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12:00 PM EDT / 6:00 PM CEST / 12:00 AM AWST on July 6

Professor Mark Nicol
Clinical microbiologist & Professor of Microbiology in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Western Australia. Holds an honorary appointment at the University of Cape Town.

Bacteria in Human Milk: Do They Really Make a Difference?

We studied the human milk (HM) metabolome and microbiome in women participating in a South African birth cohort, the Drakenstein Child Health Study. A subset of women (45/519, 8.7%) had low HM lactose (>2SD below mean). Low lactose was associated with shorter exclusive breastfeeding duration (28 vs 55 days) and poor infant growth during exclusive breastfeeding. Metabolomic profiling of low-lactose HM revealed an increase in metabolites associated with microbial carbohydrate metabolism. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing showed that HM samples with low lactose had significantly higher median relative abundance of Staphylococcus species compared with normal lactose HM (19% vs 5%) and increased bacterial load. Further, S. aureus was isolated from 73% of HM samples with low lactose compared with 20% of samples with normal milk lactose. Growth of S. aureus in vitro was inhibited by typical concentrations of lactose found in HM. Low lactose in HM may be permissive for the growth of S. aureus and contribute to poorer lactational outcomes.

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12:00 AM EDT (August 2) / 6:00 AM CEST / 12:00 PM AWST on August 3

Dr. Rukhsana Haider
Founder and Chairperson of the Training & Assistance for Health & Nutrition Foundation (TAHN) in Bangladesh, and Co-Chair, Steering Committee of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA)

Supporting mothers to breastfeed exclusively in Bangladesh

Specific programs to inform and support employed women for breastfeeding are lacking in Bangladesh. Ready-made garment factory workers in particular, are reported to have poor infant feeding practices and undernourished children. In order to improve the infant feeding practices of factory workers and their unemployed neighbours, a peer counselling project was implemented from 2015-17 in Chattogram. Peer counsellors visited mothers regularly at home from pregnancy until children were 18 months old. A cross-sectional survey undertaken when the project ended, showed that breastfeeding practices of the counselled factory workers were significantly better than those of the non-counselled factory workers. Unemployed counselled mothers also had optimal breastfeeding practices. These results will be further shared during the webinar. Despite the challenges being faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, peer counsellors continue to provide home-based services to both unemployed and employed women in TAHN Foundations’ programme areas.

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12:00 PM SGT/AWST on February 23, 2021 / 11:00 PM EST on February 22, 2021

Western Pacific

Professor Valerie Verhasselt
Chair in Human Lactology, School of Molecular Sciences at the University of Western Australia (UWA)

Antigen shedding in human milk: key for long term immune health?

In addition of being a source of nutrients for the developing newborn, human milk contains thousands of bioactive compounds, which influence infant health in the short-term as exemplified by its major benefits on infectious disease prevention. Many of the human milk compounds also have the required characteristics to instruct immune development and guide long-term health. Prebiotics, probiotics, varied antimicrobial molecules, all have the potential to shape the composition and function of the establishing gut microbiota, which is known to be a major determinant of proper immune function. Another and less explored way human milk can instruct long-term immunity, is through antigen shedding. Here, we will review the evidence that antigens from maternal environment and more specifically from allergen sources and pathogens, are found in human milk. We will gather the data that provide clues on how antigens in human milk may be especially suitable to elicit an immune response in early life and educate the infant immunity towards tolerance or defense as needed. We propose this understanding is fundamental to guide maternal interventions leading to child-tailored vaccination, harmonious microbiota commensalism and lifelong allergen tolerance.

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11:00 AWST on January 27, 2021

Dr. Lisa Stinson
Microbiologist Ecologist, University of Western Australia

Advances in Human Milk Microbiome Research Down Under

Over the past two decades, increasing research attention has been paid to the human milk microbiome. The community of micro-organisms in human milk likely contributes to infant microbiome seeding and immune training, as well as to mammary health. However, to date, investigation of this community has been largely limited to short-amplicon surveys, with poor taxonomic resolution. The purported composition of the milk microbiome is influenced by methodological factors such as method of DNA extraction, de-fatting, and sample collection and storage issues. Further, the human milk microbiota do not exist in isolation. They likely interact with non-microbial component of milk, such as antimicrobial proteins, milk fat globules, macro- and micro-nutrients, hormones, oligosaccharides, and immune cells. They also likely produce and respond to bacterial metabolites in human milk. The milk microbiome must therefore be considered in relation to these other factors in order to form an integrated and holistic view of this community. In this talk, methodological and theoretical advances in human milk microbiome research from the Perth Human Lactation Research Group will be presented.

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11:00 am AWST / 5:00 AM CEST (March 30) / 11:00 PM EDT (March 29)