In an exciting move that has the breastfeeding industry full of anticipation, a world first breastfeeding research centre is due to commence at the University of Western Australia.
From the 15 July 2015, the University of Western Australia (UWA) will have funding from The Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation, allowing it to create important new research positions into human lactation (breastfeeding).
This funding received by UWA is testament to the decades of breastfeeding research undertaken by Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann. The research positions available will include an endowed Chair in Human Lactology (the first in the world), a postdoctoral and postgraduate position.
Right on the heels of a report that found that only 50% of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed at 2 months of age, the research centre couldn't be any more needed.
Here's the rundown on the project, as well as what it means for breastfeeding — not only in Australia but around the world:
Western Australia To Join Forces With A Global Research Centre
The breastfeeding research undertaken at UWA will be complemented by a Chair and other supporting positions at the University of Zurich (UZH) (which is also funded by the Foundation). It's hoped that these two research centres will improve knowledge of breastfeeding around the world.
“It's hoped that once the focus is formed, other countries will fund for Chairs of human lactation too,” Professor Hartmann says.
The research centres will be focused on biochemistry at UWA and medicine at UZH. This will help to create an interdisciplinary focus to breastfeeding research. Breastfeeding will be more likely to end up entering into scientific journals across different research fields. This will really help to put breastfeeding on the world stage, and increase the awareness of it's importance across a range of different health fields.
What Research Will Be Undertaken?
When asked what specific research will be undertaken in Western Australia, Professor Hartmann said, “The person who obtains the academic appointment has the freedom to do what they want to in relation to human lactation, and the basic mechanisms that control human lactation”.
Why Are These Breastfeeding Centres Important?
Breastfeeding research centres are vital to the future of breastfeeding. They will help:
- More researchers and health professionals take more notice of breastfeeding, giving it the attention it rightly deserves
- More health professionals, researchers and the general public will learn so much more about breastfeeding
- Provide further evidence-based information to ensure mothers receive accurate and up-to-date information
All of these things will hopefully translate into more mothers are able to reach their breastfeeding goals.
What Would Lactation Consultants Like To See Researched?
Lactation consultants are naturally very excited to see progress being made towards breastfeeding research and evidence. So what would they like to see being researched first?
Miranda Buck (PhD candidate and IBCLC), says, “Nothing we've done has had much effect on getting more babies exclusively breastfed beyond a couple of months”.
Her suggested potential areas for future breastfeeding research include:
- Contraception during lactation
- Lactation during pregnancy
- Interventions which effectively support exclusive breastfeeding beyond three months
Del Smith (IBCLC) says, “We still have so much to learn about what breastmilk is made of and why it's important.”
She would like to see breastfeeding research into:
- Lip-tie restrictions
- Submucosal tongue-ties
- High and bubble palates
- The composition of breastmilk
Joy Anderson (IBCLC and dietitian) would like to see more breastfeeding research into obesity and breastfeeding.
“This needs more research into physiological reasons why these mums have more problems and how to help them, as the proportion of obese mothers is significant and rising” she says.
Other potential areas of breastfeeding research could include:
- Galactagogues (prescription and non-prescription)
- Induced lactation
- Food sensitivities
- Best treatment for white spots
- Effect of long term use of nipple shields
- Recurrent mastitis
Will The Research Help Breastfeeding Rates?
When asked if he thinks the research will help to rescue flailing breastfeeding rates around the world, Professor Hartmann responded, “We certainly put that as a target”.
“This will have vast benefits internationally for mothers, the nursing community and medical practitioners, as for the first time there will be a dedicated discipline for this specialised field,” he said.
The new research project will commence immediately upon the appointment of the successful candidates.
This promises to be both an important and fascinating project. Let’s watch this space to see what else we'll discover about lactation and breastfeeding.