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To ensure optimal growth and development of a baby, and to prevent parents from prematurely stopping breastfeeding, more insight is needed into the quality and quantity of breast milk that babies ingest. To be able to monitor this, the FLOW! research team will develop a prototype for a breastfeeding device.

Breastmilk is a dynamic biofluid composed of hundreds to thousands of unique nutrients, bioactive factors, and microbes. It has been shown to have many maternal and infant health benefits, such as prevention of various non-communicable diseases (obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, etcetera) in later life.

Preventive interventions

Previous research has mostly focused on comparing breastfeeding versus formula feeding, where specific knowledge on how breastmilk quality and quantity affects health is still rather limited. While there are several indicators of sufficient breastmilk intake by infants, such as growth, obtaining precise and accurate intake volumes is challenging. Also, parental perceptions of insufficient breastmilk production and intake is one of the key reasons of early breastfeeding cessation. As even modest variations in milk volume may lead to malnutrition in infants, more precise breastmilk intake estimates to monitoring infant growth are urgently needed in order to facilitate timely preventative interventions.

Prototype breastfeeding device

With this project a cross-disciplinary group of researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Utrecht University (UU) and University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) aims to design a first prototype of a breastfeeding device. Hereby, sensing principles will be transformed into a wearable, non-intrusive assessment device by focusing on, among other things, motion and strain sensors to detect swallow movements and breast volume changes.


The researchers will bring together expertise from all EWUU Alliance partners. They will operate at the intersecting fields of the physiological aspects of breastfeeding and pediatrics (UMCU), dietary behavior (WUR), chemistry (WUR), immunology and sustainability (UU), co-design (TU/e, UMCU), sensor development and data science (WUR together with UTwente), quantitative tool evaluation (WUR), and qualitative user-centered tool evaluation (TU/e, UMCU), where they will apply Human-Computer Interaction design as a method to close the gap between these fields.

The prototype they develop will serve as the basis for a TKI-grant proposal focusing on the development and implementation of a new tool to assess breastmilk quantity and quality and suckling behavior of the infant.

Nutritional guidelines

Additionally, precise breastmilk intake estimates and knowledge on suckling behavior would serve the research community. It helps to establish more informed guidelines for the nutritional behavior needs of the infant for optimal growth and development. Recent advances in technology and artificial intelligence can be leveraged here to develop new methods that provide more accurate data on breastmilk quantity and quality while feeding, and are better accessible to researchers, clinicians, and mothers.

Seed funding project
In 2022, the FLOW! project team received seed funding from the Institute for Preventive Health. During the course of this project, the team will share its findings, amongst others through i4PH’s communication channels.


Elske Brouwer-Brolsma