Human milk: From complex tailored nutrition to bioactive impact on child cognition and behavior

Carolina de Weerth, Anna Katariina Aatsinki, Meghan B. Azad, Frank F. Bartol, Lars Bode, Maria Carmen Collado, Amanda M. Dettmer, Catherine J. Field, Meagan Guilfoyle, Katie Hinde, Aniko Korosi, Hellen Lustermans, Nurul Husna Mohd Shukri, Sophie E. Moore, Shikha Pundir, Juan Miguel Rodriguez, Carolyn M. Slupsky, Sarah Turner, Johannes B. van Goudoever, Anna ZiomkiewiczRoseriet Beijers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Human milk is a highly complex liquid food tailor-made to match an infant’s needs. Beyond documented positive effects of breastfeeding on infant and maternal health, there is increasing evidence that milk constituents also impact child neurodevelopment. Non-nutrient milk bioactives would contribute to the (long-term) development of child cognition and behavior, a process termed ‘Lactocrine Programming’. In this review we discuss the current state of the field on human milk composition and its links with child cognitive and behavioral development. To promote state-of-the-art methodologies and designs that facilitate data pooling and meta-analytic endeavors, we present detailed recommendations and best practices for future studies. Finally, we determine important scientific gaps that need to be filled to advance the field, and discuss innovative directions for future research. Unveiling the mechanisms underlying the links between human milk and child cognition and behavior will deepen our understanding of the broad functions of this complex liquid food, as well as provide necessary information for designing future interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCritical reviews in food science and nutrition
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Lactocrine programming
  • behavior
  • cognition
  • human milk composition
  • lactational programming
  • milk bioactives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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