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RUSH NICU Human Milk Research Program

Aloka Patel, MD, is a neonatologist whose research is focused on the study of lactation and human milk and nutrition in vulnerable populations infants, especially those hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, and their mothers. Our team of multidisciplinary researchers conducts translational and clinical research that is directly translatable to clinical practice and health policy, with special interests in infant health outcomes, health care economics, gut microbiome and barriers to lactation in high-risk mothers.

Selected publications

Fleurant E, Schoeny M, Hoban R, Asiodu I, Riley B, Meier PP, Bigger H, Patel AL. Barriers to Human Milk Feeding at Discharge of VLBW Infants: Maternal Goal Setting as a Key Social Factor. Breastfeed Med, DOI: 10.1089/bfm.2016.0105.

Patel AL, Johnson TJ, Robin B, Bigger HR, Buchanan A, Christian E, Nandhan V, Shroff A, Schoeny M, Engstrom JL, Meier PP. Influence of own mother’s milk on bronchopulmonary dysplasia and costs. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. doi:10.1136/archdischild-2016-310898.

Riley B, Schoeny M, Rogers L, Asiodu I, Bigger H, Meier PP, Patel AL. Barriers to Human Milk Feeding at Discharge of VLBW Infants: Evaluation of Neighborhood Structural Factors. Breastfeed Med, 2016;11:335-42. PMCID: PMC5031119.

Patra K, Greene MM, Patel AL, Meier P. Maternal Education Level Predicts Cognitive, Language and Motor Outcome in Preterm Infants in the 2nd Year of Life. Amer J Perinatol 2016;33(8):738-44. PMCID: PMC4919155.

Meier P, Patel AL, Hoban R, Engstrom JL. Which Breast Pump for Which Mother: An Evidence-Based Approach to Individualizing Breast Pump Technology. J Perinatol, 2016;36(7):493-9. PMCID: PMC4920726.

Esquerra-Zwiers A, Rossman B, Meier P, Engstrom J, Janes J, Patel AL. “It’s Somebody Else’s Milk": Unraveling the Tension in Mothers of Preterm Infants Who Provide Consent for Pasteurized Donor Human Milk. J Hum Lact 2016; 32(1):95-102. PMCID: PMC4959541.

Patel AL, Mutlu EA, Sun Y, Koenig L, Green S, Jakubowicz A, Mryan J, Engen P, Fogg L, Chen AL, Pombar X, Meier PP, Keshavarzian A. Longitudinal Survey of Microbiota in Hospitalized Preterm Very Low Birth Weight Infants. JPGN 2016; 62(2):292-303. PMCID: PMC4724288.

Meier PP, Johnson TJ, Patel AL, Rossman BR. Evidence-based methods that promote human milk feeding of preterm infants: an expert review. Clinics in Perinatology, in press.

Meier PP, Patel AL, Esquerra-Zwiers A. Donor Human Milk Update: Evidence, Mechanisms and Priorities for Research and Practice. J Pediatr, doi.org10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.09.027.

Hoban R, Bigger H, Patel A, Rossman B, Fogg LF, Meier PP. Goals of human milk feeding in mothers of VLBW infants: How do goals change and are they achieved during the NICU hospitalization? Breastfeed Med 2015; 10:305-11. PMCID: PMC4523097.

Namachivayam K, Coffing H, Sankaranarayanan N, Jin Y, MohanKumar K, Frost B, Blanco C, Patel A, Meier P, Garzon S, Desai U, Maheshwari A. Transforming Growth Factor-β2 is sequestered in Preterm Human Milk by Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans. American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 2015;309(3):G171-80.

Johnson TJ, Patel AL, Bigger HR, Engstrom JL, Meier PP. Cost Savings of Human Milk as a Strategy to Reduce the Incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Very Low Birth Weight Infants. Neonatology 2015;107(4):271-6. PMCID: PMC4458214.

Patel AL, Trivedi S, Bhandari NP, Ruf A, Scala CM, Witowitch G, Chen Y, Renschen C, Meier PP, Silvestri JM. Reducing Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Very Low Birth Weight Infants Using Quality Improvement Methods. J Perinatol 2014; 34:850–857. PMCID: PMC4216600.

Abrams SA, Schanler RJ, Lee ML, Rechtman DJ; Prolacta Study Group. Greater Mortality and Morbidity in Extremely Preterm Infants Fed a Diet Containing Cow Milk Protein Products. Breastfeed Med 2014; doi:10.1089/bfm.2014.0024.

Bigger HR, Fogg LF, Patel AL, Johnson TJ, Engstrom JL, Meier PP. Quality indicators for human milk use in very low birthweight infants: Are we measuring what we should be measuring? J Perinatol 2014; 34:287–291. PMCID: PMC3969767.

Patel AL, Johnson TJ, Engstrom JL, Fogg LF, Jegier BJ, Bigger HR, Meier PP. Impact of Early Human Milk on Sepsis and Health Care Costs in Very Low Birth Weight. J Perinatol 2013; 33(7):514-9. PMCID: PMC3644388.

Johnson TJ, Patel AL, Jegier B, Engstrom JL, Meier P. The Cost of Morbidities in Very Low Birth Weight Infants. J Pediatr 2013;162:243-9. PMCID: PMC3584449.

Sampath V, Garland JS, Le M, Patel AL, Konduri GG, Cohen JD, Simpson PM, Hines RN. A TLR5 (g.1174C>T) variant that encodes a Stop Codon (R392X) is associated with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. Pediatric Pulmonology 2012; 47(5): 460-68.

Ghandehari H, Lee ML, Rechtman DJ; H2MF Study Group. An exclusive human milk-based diet in extremely premature infants reduces the probability of remaining on total parenteral nutrition: a reanalysis of the data. BMC Res Notes 2012; 5:188. PMCID: PMC3527141.

Sullivan S, Schanler RJ, Kim JH, Patel AL, Trawöger R, Kiechl-Kohlendorfer U, Chan GM, Blanco CL, Abrams S, Cotten CM, Laroia N, Ehrenkranz RA, Dudell G, Cristofalo EA, Meier PP, Lee ML, Rechtman DJ, Lucas A. An Exclusively Human Milk-Based Diet Is Associated With a Lower Rate of Necrotizing Enterocolitis than a Diet of Human Milk and Bovine Milk-Based Products. J Pediatr 2010; 156(4):562-7.

Patel AL, Engstrom JL, Meier PP, Jegier BJ, Kimura RE. Calculating postnatal growth velocity in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. J Perinatol 2009; 29:618–622. PMCID: PMC2767524.

Patel AL, Engstrom JL, Meier PP, Kimura RE. Accuracy of methods for calculating postnatal growth velocity in extremely low birth weight infants. Pediatrics 2005;116:1466-73..

Our team



  • Clarisa Medina Poeliniz
  • Anita Esquerra- Zwiers
  • Yimin Chen RD
  • Judy Janes, RN, BSN