An interview at the Medela Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium with Maureen Minchin on her presentation of, How much does Milk Matter, where she explores A Milk Hypothesis that incorporates and expands the often uncritically accepted hygiene hypothesis and provides motivation for societal change to enable optimal infant feeding to the WHO template: exclusive from birth to around 6 months, and continued, with appropriate family foods, into the second year and beyond.
A medical historian, Maureen Minchin studied at Melbourne and Oxford Universities, before the experience of 1970s motherhood caused her to move from academia to infant feeding education and advocacy. Her book, Food for Thought: a parent’s guide to food intolerance, had resulted in an invitation to join the Australian College of Allergy. Her next book, Breastfeeding Matters, was declared a “milestone in the history of breastfeeding” by Professor David Baum. Her most recent book, Milk matters: infant feeding and immune disorder, has been called “a book to change the world, and people’s understanding of it” by Professor Mary Renfrew, and “the only book to end mother guilt”. She has worked extensively in the area of infant nutrition, acting as a consultant for WHO, UNICEF and other agencies. From the 1980s, she pioneered professional lactation education, helping create key programmes such as the global Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, online courses, and international bodies such as ILCA and IBLCE, ensuring that all these initiatives supported the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. She is on the Board of the International Breastfeeding Journal, and a member of the International Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML).
Abstract: Just how much does milk matter? The milk hypothesis in brief
Forty years of learning from families and scientific research has convinced me that infant feeding patterns are the single most significant cause of the epidemics of inflammatory disease in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic) nations, manifesting in lifelong and intergenerationally transmitted problems such as allergy, obesity and auto-immune disorders. Labelled non-communicable diseases, in fact these problems are vertically communicated as well as arising from WEIRD lifestyles. That tidal wave of human ill health is now being exported globally at an alarming rate, with vast unrealised negative human, societal, and environmental consequences. The tunnel vision of researchers largely funded by vested interests needs to widen: to recognise the big picture to which they contribute whenever their work is reported in ways that undermine confidence in the highly evolved mammalian survival strategy of lactation, and the essential human act of breastfeeding. A Milk Hypothesis incorporates and expands the often uncritically accepted hygiene hypothesis, and provides motivation for societal change to enable optimal infant feeding to the WHO template: exclusive from birth to around 6 months, and continued, with appropriate family foods, into the second year and beyond. That template will reduce both immune disorders and social inequity, maximise human potential, and help protect the earth’s fragile environment. This presentation will outline some of the evidence for my Milk hypothesis and its consequences, dealt with in more detail in Milk Matters.