Ellen Demerath Lab

Baby in pea pod

The Demerath Lab

Welcome to our lab page! Explore below for more information on our current studies and study findings.

Study participants can view visit information by clicking on their study below or via our left-hand menu links.

 
Current Studies:

4M Study - Maternal Metabolism, Breast Milk Composition, and Infant Outcomes

4M Study - Maternal Metabolism, Breast Milk Composition, and Infant Outcomes

Congratulations Mom and Welcome Baby!

This study is being conducted at the University of Minnesota by Ellen Demerath Ph.D. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, Katherine Jacobs, MD, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Samantha Hoffman, MD, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health.  It is funded by a University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Faculty Research Development grant.

Study Purpose

The 4M cohort adds mothers with gestational diabetes to expand upon the MILK Study cohort. With the addition of participants in the 4M study, we hope to understand how medical complications in mothers, such as gestational diabetes, and maternal nutrition affects breastmilk composition and how hormones and microbiome affect infant body composition and infant microbiome.

MILK Study - Mothers and Infants LinKed for Healthy Growth

MILK Study - Mothers and Infants LinKed for Healthy Growth

Congratulations Mom and Welcome Baby!

This study is being conducted by Dr. Ellen Demerath Ph.D. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, Patricia Fontaine, M.D. Senior Clinical Investigator at Health Partners Institute for Education and Research, and David Fields, Ph.D. at University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences. It is funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD).

Study Purpose

The purpose of this study is to learn more about how breast milk is related to mother and infant weight gain and body composition (the amount of muscle and fat that is in your body). About 360 mothers/infants pairs will take part in this study from Minnesota and Oklahoma, with about 225 participants from Minnesota and 135 from Oklahoma.

Study Developments

By investigating how our biology predicts and affects breastmilk production, we hope this research will support the needs of women as individuals. By studying how biology influences breastmilk nutrition, we hope to learn more about why breastmilk is such a good meal for growing babies.

We are busy working with the data we’ve collected so far! Below are some recent findings and statistics from the MILK study:

Preliminary Data: The MILK study's first subjects

Preliminary Data: The MILK study's first subjects

MNOK
Completed all 3 visits8932
Average age of baby in weeks when mom went back to work99
% of study babies with big brothers/sisters60.2%64.5%
% of study babies that are first babies39.8%35.5%
% of moms still exclusively breastfeeding at three months86.4%96.9%
% of moms still exclusively breastfeeding at six months75.9%65.6%
Average baby body fat % at 1 mo16.2%19.7%
Average baby body fat % at 3 mo23.3%23.5%
Average baby body fat % at 6 mo34.4%34.7%
Breast milk fat content % at 1 mo4.9%5.5%
Breast milk fat content % at 3 mo4.7%5.5%

Abstract: Milk Production & Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI

Abstract: Milk Production & Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI

Title: Breastmilk output is negatively related to maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and pregnancy glycemia in nondiabetic, exclusively breastfeeding women (abstract)

We know that women with higher body mass index tend to have more difficulty starting and continuing breastfeeding. One reason cited for this issue is lower production of breastmilk in this population. This study connected pre-pregnancy weight status and blood sugar levels (glucose) to the way women’s bodies produce milk after giving birth. At 1 month after giving birth, non-diabetic, exclusively breastfeeding women who had a higher weight status before pregnancy produced less breastmilk. At 3 months after giving birth, non-diabetic, exclusively breastfeeding women whose cells processed glucose less effectively during pregnancy produced less breastmilk. 

Abstract: Milk Composition & Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI

Abstract: Milk Composition & Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI

Title: Altered breastmilk hormone concentrations in non-diabetic, obese, exclusively breastfeeding women (abstract)

This study looked at the relationship between pre-pregnancy weight status in non-diabetic women and breastmilk composition. At 1 and 3 months after giving birth, heavier women had higher levels of insulin and lower levels of adiponectin in their breastmilk. Insulin is a hormone that helps our bodies effectively use sugar (glucose), and it’s important to keep these levels from becoming too high. Adiponectin is a protein that protects against inflammation in the body and is associated with the way we metabolize energy from nutrients. The next step in this research is to look at whether these levels are associated with infant growth and development.

Publication: Milk Protein Composition & Maternal Weight Status

Publication: Milk Protein Composition & Maternal Weight Status

The goal of this study was to examine the associations of maternal weight status before, during, and after pregnancy with breast milk C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), two bioactive markers of inflammation, measured at 1 and 3 months post partum. Click here to link to the research report in the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health. Click here to link to the journal article and/or abstract.

Abstract: Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding and Postpartum Weight Loss

Abstract: Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding and Postpartum Weight Loss

Title: How much does exclusive breastfeeding to the recommended 6 months reduce maternal postpartum weight retention in healthy women? (Abstract)

Breastfeeding is commonly believed to help women shed weight gained during pregnancy.  This research studied the extent to which a longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding was related to greater weight loss during the postpartum period. Women who exclusively breastfed their infants for 3 and 6-months lost more weight by 6 months postpartum than those who exclusively breastfed to 1-month only. Weight loss by 6 months postpartum was greater among women who breastfed to 6 months compared to those who breastfed to 3-months.

Abstract: Diet Quality during Pregnancy and Infant Growth

Abstract: Diet Quality during Pregnancy and Infant Growth

Title: Maternal Diet Quality during Pregnancy and Infant Growth in Early Postnatal Life (Abstract)

It is widely understood that nutrition during pregnancy plays an important role in determining health and well-being of children. This study looked at the relationship between quality of women’s diet during the third trimester of pregnancy and their infant’s weight relative to other infants of the same length (weight-for-length) and length relative to other infants of the same age (length-for-age) during the first six months of life. Women who ate a higher quality diet, as characterized by higher intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein foods, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, and lower intake of refined grains, sodium, saturated fats and added sugars, had infants with lower weight-for-length and higher length-for-age from birth to 6-months of age. 

Abstract: Diet Quality during Lactation and Inflammatory Markers in Breast Milk

Abstract: Diet Quality during Lactation and Inflammatory Markers in Breast Milk

Title: Higher Maternal Diet Quality during Lactation is Associated with Lower Inflammatory Markers in Breast Milk (Abstract)

This study aimed to examine the role of women’s diet quality during lacatation in determining concentrations of inflammatory markers in breast milk. Women who ate higher amounts of whole grains and greens and beans had lower concentrations of inflammatory markers in breast milk at 1-month postpartum. Women who ate higher amounts of fat-free/low-fat dairy products and lower amounts of added sugars had similarly lower concentrations of inflammatory markers in breast milk from 1 to 3-months postpartum.

Infant Feeding Resources

For more information on breastfeeding and infant nutrition practices, visit our feeding resources page!

 

Happy birthday!

Happy BirthdayOur MILK Study babies begin turning 4 this November! Happy birthday to our wonderful participants!

Another on the way?

Stork with baby

If you're pregnant and interested in enrolling your new little one in the study, we'd love to hear from you!

MILK in the news!

TV By Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon [LGPL, via Wikimedia Commons] - Background color changed from black to white by uploader.Check out our feature! WCCO filmed a visit with one of our moms who is back for the study with her second baby.

Contact us

  • 612-361-7363

Further study participation

Many of you have inquired as to how you and your children can participate in other research studies here at the University of Minnesota. The Institute of Child Development (ICD) conducts many studies with children of various ages.

Enroll in the ICD participant pool