New Research on the Global Benefit of Human Milk Unveiled at International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium

April 2018 – Researchers advance evidence on the long-term benefits for mothers and infants and the unique composition of human milk

McHenry, Ill. – April 2018 - At Medela’s 13th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium, convened in Paris, France from March 22-23, leading researchers from across the globe, including two from academic institutions in the United States, shared new research demonstrating the unique composition and impact human milk has on infant development and nutrition as well as population, infant and maternal health.

“Medela is committed to supporting the health of moms and babies. We start by supporting the advancement of breastfeeding science and using that to inform our support for moms and the tools to help them,” said Melissa Gonzales, Managing Director, Medela USA.

This year, Medela’s annual conference, dedicated to advancing lactation science, brought together 450 doctors and clinicians from over 19 countries to bring the best minds together to foster the advancement of new research and share findings that will help shape national efforts to improve support for mothers and infants.

Primary public health intervention
Tricia Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor and health economist in the Department of Health Systems Management and the Department of Women, Children and Family Nursing at Rush University in Chicago, Ill., unveiled a new cost-benefit analysis showing the remarkably low economic investment required to feed human milk to infants, and the high return on investment in the short- and long-term, noting that breastfeeding is “primary public intervention” that it is as important to the health of infants, mothers and the broader public as vaccinations have proven to be.

Dr. Johnson’s work seeks to highlight the macroeconomic value of human milk. From disease prevention in infants to optimal lifelong development, meta-studies of full-and pre-term infants have shown that feeding infants and babies human milk reduces healthcare costs by millions and increases productivity and gross domestic product by tens of millions annually. However, despite a growing body of evidence, policymakers are slow to act.

The evolutionary keystone linking food and health
Seminal research from Bruce German, M.S., Ph.D., Director of the Foods for Health Institute at the University of California, Davis highlights the amazing quality of human milk as the quintessential model linking food and health. His work underscores that the evolution of human milk reflects the benefits of adaptation in general, as it continuously evolves specifically to support infants’ needs. Those infants grow to produce milk with new traits which will further promote the health, strength and survival of the next generation.  

“Mother’s milk is the product of 200 million years of symbiotic co-evolution between a mammalian mother and her infant,” he noted. Dr. German’s studies of the human genome and human milk have reinforced that principle. His research shows the exclusive compatibility between the chemical makeup of human milk and the biological needs of infants.

More breastfeeding for less asthma
Prof. Meghan Azad, PhD, a member of the Executive Council for the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation and an internationally recognised researcher shared new evidence noting the correlation between breastfeeding and reduced childhood asthma. She outlined a new public health initiative to educate mothers and the medical community on breastfeeding for asthma prevention.

Pharmacology of marijuana and its transfer into human milk
Prof. Thomas Hale, PhD, Founder and Executive Director of the national Infant Risk Centre in the USA, who recognized as the world’s leading authority on drugs and mother’s milk analysed the potential impact of marijuana use on human milk. He shared new evidence indicating there is a definitive presence of chemicals in the milk of mothers consuming marijuana.

To learn more about the lactation science and research that Medela supports, please visit our clinical information hub. To access more information about the Symposium and details on the speakers and research shared, visit the Symposium.

About Medela
Founded in 1961, Medela is led by Michael Larsson and concentrates on two business units: "Human Milk," providing research-based breast milk feeding solutions, and "Healthcare," engineering and manufacturing medical vacuum technology solutions. Medela is headquartered in Switzerland and has 18 subsidiaries, distributing its products to more than 100 countries throughout the world. For more information, visit

About Medela LLC
Medela's US-based manufacturing and development facility is headquartered in McHenry, Illinois. Every year, more than one million mothers in the U.S. rely on Medela's technology. As the #1 breast pump brand*, Medela provides the best in research-based breast milk feeding products and clinical education to support moms' breast milk feeding journey. The company is fully dedicated to supporting mothers so that they can provide breast milk to their baby for as long as they choose. For more information, visit

i Breastfeeding in the 21st century. Quigley, Maria A et al. The Lancet, Volume 387, Issue 10033, 2087 - 2088
iii 21st century toolkit for optimizing population health through precision nutrition. Aifric O'Sullivan, Bethany Henrick, Bonnie Dixon, Daniela Barile, Angela Zivkovic, Jennifer Smilowitz, Danielle Lemay, William Martin, J. Bruce German & Sara Elizabeth Schaefer. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition Vol. 0, Iss. 0, 2017