Donor Milk for Improved Neurodevelop-mental Outcomes

Key findings:


Donor milk does not improve neurodevelopment above preterm formula, but it reduces the risk of a serious bowel disease called necrotizing enterocolitis.

Donor milk and preterm formula result in similar growth at 5.5 years of age for children born very low birth weight (VLBW).

There is no difference in cost between donor milk and preterm formula to the healthcare system or families.

Preterm infants fed mother's own milk develop unique gut microbiotas.



Optimizing Mothers' Milk for Preterm Infants

Key findings:

Human milk-based fortifier does not improve feeding tolerance above bovine milk-based fortifier.

Human milk-based fortifier does not improve neurodevelopment above bovine milk-based fortifier.

Each mother of preterm infants has a unique milk microbiota and it changes over time.



Maximizing Mothers' Milk for Preterm Infants

Key findings:

Stay tuned!


Maximizing milk in a changing food environment

Milk, whether human milk during infancy or cow's milk during childhood and beyond, plays a crucial role in meeting the nutritional requirements of Canadians. In turn, milk facilitates optimal growth, neurodevelopment and disease prevention. For very preterm infants, mother's milk and pasteurized donor human milk, when mother's milk is unavailable, is life-saving. Emerging data suggest cow's milk may play a role in childhood growth and appetite regulation, glucose control, and obesity prevention. However, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) have displaced milk in the diet. Many Canadians are also now opting for plant-based beverages for cultural, religious, and health considerations. We aim to investigate how the nutritional and bioactive components of milk (human or cow's milk) and infant formula can maintain and improve Canadians' health. This Canada Foundation for Innovation grant will enable the purchase of specialized equipment to systematically evaluate promising strategies to facilitate optimal delivery of nutrients to very preterm infants and preserve the inherent biological properties of human milk. In addition, novel biomarkers of milk and SSB intake will be developed and used in studies to assess the role of cow's milk, plant-based beverages and SSB on appetite regulation, weight gain and body composition. In all studies, we will explore the impact of parental feeding practices.

Read the University of Toronto news article.



Latest publications

Unger S, Christie-Holmes N, Guvenc F, Budylowski P, Mubareka S, Gray-Owen SD, O’Connor DL. Holder pasteurization of donated human milk is effective in inactivating SARS-CoV-2. CMAJ. 2020.

McGee M, Unger S, Hamilton J, Birken CS, Pausova Z, Vanderloo LM, Bando N, O’Connor DL. Lean mass accretion in children born very low birth weight is significantly associated with estimated changes from sedentary time to light physical activity. Pediatr Obes. 2020.

McGee M, Unger S, Hamilton J, Birken CS, Pausova Z, Kiss A, Bando N, O’Connor DL. Adiposity and fat-free mass of children born with very low birth weight do not differ in children fed supplemental donor milk compared with those fed preterm formula. J Nutr. 2019. 


The OptiMoM Grows Up Study is a 5.5-year follow-up for families part of the OptiMoM trial. See the OptiMoM Grows Up Study poster for more informaton!

OptiMoM Grows Up

The COVID Study aims to see if the COVID-19 virus and antibodies are in breastmilk.


Current studies

MaxiMoM is a clinical trial for VLBW infants to look at different fortification strategies.


SickKids Research Institute

Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

686 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5G 0A4

Department of Nutritional Sciences

University of Toronto

1 King's College Circle

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5S 1A8

© 2021 MaxiMoM Research

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