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Diversity and trends of human milk banking: a scoping review from 1946 to 2021
  1. Linda P Siziba1,
  2. Sebastian Huhn1,
  3. Elisabeth Pütz1,
  4. Caroline Baier1,
  5. Raphael S Peter2,
  6. Corinna Gebauer3,
  7. Samantha Griffin4,
  8. Sophie Wedekind4,
  9. Natalie Shenker4,
  10. Jon Genuneit1,5
  1. 1 Medical Faculty, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Epidemiology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany
  2. 2 Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany
  3. 3 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, University of Leipzig Medical Centre, Leipzig, Germany
  4. 4 Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK
  5. 5 German Center for Child and Youth Health (DZKJ), Leipzig, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Linda P Siziba, Medical Faculty, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Epidemiology, Leipzig University, Leipzig 04103, Germany; Linda.Siziba{at}


Background The provision of donor human milk (DHM) through human milk banks is now widely practised globally. The study aimed to describe the current state, identify major topics and map out the emerging trends in human milk banking.

Methods PubMed was systematically searched for publications related to DHM, with the last update on 14 May 2021, for papers published between 1946 and 2021. Titles and abstracts were screened and indexed into 8 main and 39 subcategories. A top-up search was done in April 2022, but these results have not been incorporated.

Results A total of 1083 publications were identified, and more than a third (41%) were either observational or interventional studies. Predominant topics were milk type and milk composition. Almost half (49%) of the publications in the last decade were funded through government/research councils, and industry funding started shortly after links between formula and necrotising enterocolitis were published. Literature from high-income countries was six times more than publications from low-income or middle-income countries (LMICs).

Conclusion The diversity and trends of publications included in this scoping review ranged from descriptive studies comparing biological and compositional differences of mother’s own milk, DHM and/or formula. Very few studies have investigated associations of different milk types with infant outcomes. Evidence on breastfeeding and recipient psychological health outcomes is limited. Further research should identify the appropriateness of different funding sources. Future collaborations between academics, clinicians and milk banks in LMICs should be fostered to bridge the gap that exists between DHM and access.

  • Epidemiology
  • Health services research
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care Units, Paediatric
  • Neonatology

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

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  • Contributors Conceptualisation: CB, JG, SH, EP and LPS; data acquisition: CB, JG, EP, SW and SG; analysis: LPS, RSP, JG and NS; interpretation: JG, NS, LPS and CB; drafting of the manuscript: JG, LPS, SH and NS; revision and final approval of the manuscript: all authors.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests JG is the project manager and LPS is a scientist on unrestricted research grants from Danone Nutricia Research to Ulm University and to Leipzig University for research into human milk composition within the Ulm SPATZ Health Study and the Ulm Birth Cohort Study. This work is not related to the present publication. NS is a consultant for the Human Milk Foundation, the charity that operates the Hearts Milk Bank in the UK. No further conflicts of interest have to be declared for this publication.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.