Our story

The Hearts Milk Bank is the UK’s newest milk bank and was co-founded by Dr Natalie Shenker and Gillian Weaver. Having both worked in the NHS for many years, they now aim to bring a new approach to the provision of milk bank services that can break the cycle of disinvestment and rationing.

The HMB offers equity of access to assured supplies of screened donor human milk to hospitals and community-based clinicians for babies across London, the southeast, East Anglia and beyond. As a centre of research, we are working on wide-ranging new programmes of studies into milk banking and human milk.

The Hearts Milk Bank is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded by the provision of donor milk to hospitals and direct donations. The Hearts Milk Bank works alongside the Human Milk Foundation, a charity that provides grants for parents to access donor milk for their children when they would not be eligible on the NHS.

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Our aims

  1. To ensure equitable and assured access to donor milk.
  2. To facilitate research into the uses, processing and storage of donor milk.
  3. To make donor milk available when breastfeeding is impossible.
  4. To keep the mother and baby, and the support of breastfeeding, at the heart of all that we do.
  5. To act as a recruitment centre for ethically funded research, particularly investigating how breastfeeding affects breast cancer risk..

Board

Dr Natalie Shenker

Director

Natalie is qualified as a doctor from Oxford University and initially trained as a surgeon with a specialist interest in paediatrics. After an MSc in Developmental Biology, she did a PhD in epigenetics and breast cancer risk, which led to a successful collaboration with the milk bank formerly managed by Gillian. Natalie is now passionate about establishing a wide range of ethically-funded research into the optimal uses of milk banking and how breastfeeding affects the health of both mothers and babies.

Gillian Weaver

Director

Gillian Weaver managed the milk bank at Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital for over 25 years before leaving to work as a consultant, establishing milk bank services around the world. She now works as an advisor to health ministries internationally. She was a co-founder of the UK Association of Milk Banking (UKAMB), and a former president of the European Milk Banking Association (EMBA). Gillian is committed to ensuring the equity of access to donor milk in hospitals and communities across the UK and worldwide.

Graeme Allinson

Board Chair

Graeme has worked for Barclays PLC for over 30 years covering a variety of roles in Risk, Wealth Management and more recently in Corporate Banking where he was the National Head of Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics and Chair of the Industry Strategy Board. His current role is Head of Client Satisfaction for Corporate Banking with a mandate to drive a dramatic improvement in client satisfaction and complaints across all 900,000 clients. Graeme is a member of the UK Corporate Banking Management Committee, the Corporate Council, the People Council and the Corporate Banking Change Board. He is married with two grown-up children.

Expert Advisors

Dr Jim Gray

Microbiology and Donor Screening

Dr Jim Gray has been a Consultant Microbiologist at Birmingham Children’s and Women’s Hospitals since 1995. He has research and clinical interests in the prevention and management of obstetric and neonatal infections, and has worked on several programmes with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). His introduction to working with NICE was as a member of the 'Donor milk banks: service operation Guideline Development Group'. Jim is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hospital Infection (the official journal of the Healthcare Infection Society) and has editorial responsibilities with a number of other academic journals.

Wendy Jones

Pharmacology

Wendy Jones was a community pharmacist and also worked in GP surgeries supporting cost effective, evidence-based prescribing. She qualified as a pharmacist prescriber. Wendy left work in 2011 to work on writing her book Breastfeeding and Medication (Routledge 2013), developing information and training material on drugs in breast milk. She also recently published Breastfeeding for Dads and Grandmas (Praeclarus Press) and Why Mothers Medication Matters (Pinter and Martin). Wendy runs a helpline service on the use of medication in breastfeeding mothers for a UK charity, responding to healthcare professionals and mothers. She has been a breastfeeding supporter for 30 years. Wendy is passionate that breastfeeding should be valued by all and that medication should not be a barrier.

Dr Merran Thomson

Neonatology

Dr Merran Thomson is a neonatologist who for many years worked as a Consultant Neonatologist, Chief of Service for Paediatrics and Neonatology, and Clinical Lead for the North West London Perinatal Network. She now works on a range of related issues, including advising on new drugs and therapeutic discoveries working with several charities to improve the education and training of doctors and nurses in Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet countries, and continuing neonatal work.

Mark Goodson

Social Enterprise and Governance

Mark Goodson has been a business advisor with Cambridge Social Ventures (part of the University of Cambridge) since its inception in 2014. During that time, he has worked with over 100 social ventures, supporting their growth and helping them make a positive impact in the world. Prior to this he spent over 30 years in technology, co-founding venture capital funded start-ups, taking on senior positions at companies such as Cambridge Silicon Radio and acting as a consultant to technology companies. He has founded a number of ventures, both commercial and social, and is also a post-graduate qualified coach and mentor.

Alice Casey

Strategy and Funding

Alice Casey leads leads a portfolio of work at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), looking at how technology is transforming communities and civic life.

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We are currently fundraising for additional pieces of equipment and new projects. Help us by donating!

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