Breastfeeding is critical for the lifelong health and well-being of both mother and infant. The post-partum period has been understudied but could provide a critical window to improve health outcomes of the dyad. The Lactation Lab seeks to conduct an in-depth investigation of the maternal and infant factors that impact lactation outcomes and breastmilk composition. In the short-term, this inquiry will generate fundamental knowledge required for the discovery of interventions to improve maternal and infant health outcomes. In the long-term, the development of the Lactation Lab will provide a model for discovery in the field of lactation science, bringing much needed scientific rigor to investigations during this critical period that impacts the lifelong health of two generations.
ABOUT THE LACTATION LAB
The Lactation Lab is a hybrid clinical and basic laboratory, with clinical research space and personnel specifically tailored to post-partum mothers and infants to trial and optimize lactation outcomes within an evidence-based framework, and a basic science laboratory that defines the “best practices” for breastmilk composition measurement techniques. We aim to create this durable resource for Eastern Massachusetts, both to innovate targeted and evidence-based interventions for improving lactational outcomes and to provide a resource for clinicians and mothers during the critical post-partum period.
The Lactation Lab clinical space is staffed by clinicians and researchers who are well-versed in lactational physiology, post-partum care, and infant behavior and physiology. The clinical space houses key tools needed for maternal and infant evaluation. Specifically, for body composition assessment, we house an adult stadiometer, scale, bioimpedance assay device, skin fold thickness calipers, air displacement plethysmography device, infant scale and recumbent stadiometer. For breastmilk specimen collection, hospital grade breast pumps with relevant disposable supplies are available. Personnel are trained in the collection and storage of breastmilk and other specimens (blood, stool, urine). Within the clinic, we are able to obtain spirometry, infant neurodevelopmental assessments, and electroencephalographic markers of neurodevelopment (such as visual evoked potential).
The Lactation Lab laboratory space is staffed with a post-doctoral researcher and a laboratory technician. The laboratory team is currently developing “best practices” for breastmilk storage and measurement techniques for breastmilk markers and components that have biologic plausibility to play a role in lactational programming. With the capabilities of our lab and that of our collaborators we are able to analyze the microbiome, metabolome, fatty acid profile, inflammatory profile, and other components of samples ranging from blood, to breastmilk, to vaginal swabs and stool.