Supported by NIH-funding and other private sources, the Department of Neonatology engages in basic, clinical and translational areas of investigation that include human milk, breastfeeding medicine/lactation, fetal/neonatal allergy and immunology, and oxygen targeting and associated toxicity.
Connecticut Human Milk Research Center
Under the direction of epidemiologist Elizabeth Brownell, PhD, MA, Connecticut Children’s has established the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center. The center capitalizes on the strength of the NICUs Nutrition & Lactation Support services which includes routine use of donor human milk. The Connecticut Human Milk Research Center investigates cutting-edge clinical epidemiologic research questions related to human milk use and clinical/growth outcomes (including the development of necrotizing enterocolitis).
Connecticut Children’s Donor Milk Program
Evidence shows that human breast milk is best for babies and when mothers cannot provide their own, Connecticut Children’s Donor Milk Program—the first of its kind in New England—provides nourishment to premature and other at-risk babies who might not otherwise receive the benefits of human breast milk. Breast milk contains protective factors that encourage good intestinal development and can reduce the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious and devastating intestinal condition. Neonatologist Kathleen Marinelli, MD, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and president of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, is a donor milk advocate for premature babies.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America oversees the health and safety standards for donor banks across the US, including the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio where Connecticut Children purchases its donor milk. With parental consent, it’s administered as a standard of care to babies who are born at <32 weeks gestation, weigh four pounds or less, and whose mother’s cannot provide enough or any of their own milk. Since the program’s implementation, a number of clinical studies have been conducted on Connecticut Children’s donor milk babies. The results have been presented at national and international meetings and are pending publication in scientific journals.
Asthma and Allergy Development in Utero
With an epidemic of patients affected by allergies and asthma on the rise, Adam Matson, MD, an attending neonatologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, has been researching ways in which mothers may influence the development of allergies and asthma in their children. His primary interest is what happens in utero and how to best promote infant health through evidence-based recommendations.
In collaboration with researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Dr. Matson’s current phase of research is aimed at achieving an understanding of the mechanisms by which maternal immune factors influence an infant’s response to dietary or environmental allergens after birth. Further study will involve environmental and genetic assessments in order to understand how a pregnant woman’s immune system might affect her infant and what interventions might be appropriate.