Dr. Jo-Anna Baxter is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Currently, she is using data collected in Pakistan to investigate how maternal diet and nutritional characteristics relate to breastmilk composition and infant growth. During her PhD, Dr. Baxter focused on characterizing the inequalities that underlie nutritional status among late adolescent and young women in Pakistan, and is a co-investigator of a large trial looking at the effect of multiple micronutrient supplementation on maternal and infant outcomes. She has had the privilege of being involved in several diverse research projects related to maternal and child nutrition based in Canada and abroad, as well as working with NGOs.
Given the strong evidence that exclusive breastfeeding is associated with improved health outcomes in infants under six months of age, it is generally assumed that the nutritional composition of breastmilk has been well characterized. However, the data that the existing guidelines are based on is limited. This has led to a general call to those in the global nutrition community to conduct studies evaluating breastmilk composition in various settings, including low- and middle-income countries. Breastmilk macronutrient content has traditionally been considered relatively consistent independent of maternal factors, such as body mass index (BMI). However, emerging evidence suggests that the fat content of human-milk from overweight and obese mothers may differ. On a global scale, this is important given the worldwide increase in BMI. Within a study of maternal-infant pairs conducted in Pakistan, where the prevalence of undernutrition is high, this presentation will highlight breastmilk macronutrient composition and investigate the association between breastmilk fat concentration and maternal BMI.