The founders of a Harpenden charity have been awarded MBEs as part of His Majesty King Charles III's Birthday Honours list.

Gillian Weaver and Dr Natalie Shenker co-founded The Human Milk Foundation, based at the Rothamsted Institute on West Common.

Gillian is a specialist in human milk banking, and has co-founded the UK Association for Milk Banking and European Milk Bank Association.


Natalie, meanwhile, is a doctor with a PhD in in cancer and environmental epigenetics.

She is also a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow with Imperial College London, leading a research programme in human milk science.

Since 2018 the The Human Milk Foundation has provided donor human milk to sick, premature babies in hospital neonatal intensive care units.

According to the charity, "one of the leading causes of mortality in premature babies is a serious condition called necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) - this condition kills more babies each year than childhood leukaemia".

The charity's 'Hearts Milk Bank' is now the largest supplier of donor human milk in the country, with a yearly output of over 4000 litres.

Upon receiving their MBEs, Natalie and Gillian said: “We are delighted that our efforts in support of sick and premature infants and their families through the Human Milk Foundation and the Hearts Milk Bank have been recognised in this way.

"We hope that all who have contributed to these organisations through the donation of their surplus breastmilk or the giving of their time and money and through their volunteering also feel proud to be part of the achievements that led to our being awarded MBEs for services to charity and to human milk banking."


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Zanna, a parent of a Human Milk recipient added: “The relief for me, knowing that my baby was receiving good nutrition and relieved of pain and distress, made a profound difference to my wellbeing.

"Everyone at the Hearts Milk Bank was exceptional in their compassion, professionalism and expertise, and provided superb breastfeeding support.

"It is difficult to express how grateful we are, and how indebted we feel to them and the milk donors."

Further information about the charity can be found at