Dr. Alison McFadden

Senior Research Fellow


School of Nursing & Health Sciences
11 Airlie Place,

Email Address:



Alison is a senior research fellow and Director of the Mother and Infant Research Unit. Alison qualified as a midwife in 1981 and has worked in clinical midwifery in Bristol and Middlesbrough in England. She spent three years in Malawi working as a midwife teacher and clinical midwife.

Qualifying as a midwifery tutor in 1989, she was awarded the Robert Peer’s Prize for Adult Education by the University of Nottingham, and spent 17 years lecturing in midwifery and women’s health at the University of Teesside. She was awarded a Masters in Applied Educational Studies by the University of York in 1993. 

In 2005 she joined the Mother and Infant Research Unit at the University of York and gained a NIHR Researcher Development Award to undertake a PhD which was completed in 2009 at the University of York. Her doctoral research examined the breastfeeding support needs and experiences of women of Bangladeshi origin living in the UK. Alison joined the University of Dundee as a research fellow in January 2013.

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Twitter: @MIRU_UK
Twitter: @AlisonMcFDundee
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Research interests

Alison’s research focusses on improving the health and health care experiences of childbearing women, babies and families and reducing health inequities. She has particular interests in global infant feeding policy and evidence-based support to enable women to breastfeed, in improving the quality of midwifery care nationally and internationally; and in improving health care for women, babies and families from marginalised/socially excluded groups.

Her methodological expertise is in qualitative methods, evidence synthesis, multi-method studies, implementation of evidence into practice and including participants in research who are often excluded. 

Alison is lead author of the flagship Cochrane review ‘Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies’ and is an Expert Panel Member for the WHO Guideline Development Group – Nutrition Actions 2016-2018. Alison is a co-author on the influential Lancet Series on Midwifery published in 2014.

Wider professional activities

Member of Engagement Committee for the UK Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly project (led by Yale University) 2017-8

Member of Scientific Committee for the International Conference on Stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Baby Survival, Glasgow, June 2018

Member of Advisory Group for the UK World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative 2016

Co-lead (with Professor Kennedy from Yale University) International Midwifery Research Priorities Steering Group 2016 - present

Editorial Board Member ‘Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care’ March 2017 – present

Member of Fife NHS Health Inequalities Gypsy and Traveller Steering Group 2014 - present

Member of Executive Group Lancet Series in Midwifery

Expert Panel Member for WHO Guideline Development Group – Nutrition Actions 2016-2018

Temporary Advisor for WHO South East Asia Regional Office on Strengthening Midwifery in South East Asia, August 2015

NICE Expert Panel Member; Maternal and Child Nutrition (PH11)

NICE Member, Healthy Start Expert Reference Group 2014-2015

International Confederation of Midwives Research Advisory Network Member

Peer reviewer for many journals including: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, BMC Public Health, Health Expectations, International Journal for Equity in Health, International Journal of Nursing Studies, Journal of Human Lactation, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Midwifery, Public Health Nutrition

Peer reviewer for NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme, NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research, Wellbeing of Women RCM Research Training Fellowships, Health Research Board, Ireland, Tenovus Cancer Care 


Co-module lead: Contemporary Issues in Maternal and Infant Nutrition

Module team member:  Global Perspectives in Maternal and Infant Health

Teaching research methods to PhD students

Supervision of Master’s and PhD students

Current funding

Principal Investigator

Development and feasibility study of an evidence-informed manualised intervention to compare CUe-Based versus Scheduled feeding for preterm infants transitioning from tube to oral feeding in neonatal units (CUBS), funded by NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme (£343,759), 2018 –2020.

Systematic review of counselling interventions to support women to initiate and continue breastfeeding, funded by WHO (£49,889), 2018.

Evaluating a new employer-led model of supervision for midwives: PhD studentship, funded by Chief Scientist’s Office, Scotland (£72,000), 2017-2020.

Enhancing Gypsy/Travellers’ trust: using maternity and early years’ health services and dental health services as exemplars of mainstream service provision, funded by Department of Health Policy Research Programme (£409,082), 2015-2018.


Efficient evidence reviews on midwifery education, funded by UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (£36,532) 2017- 2018.

Supporting the ‘golden hour’ for mother and infant skin-to-skin contact at elective caesarean sections, funded by NHS Tayside Academic Health Science Partnership (£22,362) 2017– 2019.



McFadden A, Siebelt L, Gavine A, Atkin K, Bell K, Innes N, Jones H, Jackson C, Haggi H, and MacGillivray S (2018). "Gypsy, Roma and Traveller access to and engagement with health services: a systematic review." European Journal of Public Health 28(1): 74-81.


Siebelt, L, Jackson C, McFadden A, Dyson L, Atkin K (2017) Use of UK health services by Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers: triangulation of two mixed methods studies. The Lancet 390: S81.

McFadden A, Gavine A, Renfrew MJ, Wade A, Buchanan P, Taylor JL, Veitch E, Rennie AM, Crowther SA, MacGillivray S. Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews February 2017

Gavine A, MacGillivray S, Renfrew MJ, Siebelt L, Haggi H, McFadden A. (2017) Education and training of healthcare staff in the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to work effectively with breastfeeding women: a systematic review. International Breastfeeding Journal, 12(1): 6.

Symon A, Pringle J, Downe S, Hundley, V, Lee E, Lynn F, McFadden A, McNeill J, Renfrew MJ, Ross-Davie M, van Teijlingen E, Whitford, H, Alderdice F (2017)  Antenatal care trial interventions: a systematic scoping review and taxonomy development of care models BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17: 8.


McFadden A, Atkin K, Bell K, Innes N, Jackson C, Jones H, MacGillivray S, Siebelt L. (2016). Community engagement to enhance trust between Gypsy/Travellers, and maternity, early years’ and child dental health services: protocol for a multi-method exploratory study. International Journal for Equity in Health 15(1): 183.

Balogun OO, O'Sullivan EJ, McFadden A, Ota E, Gavine A, Garner CD, Renfrew M, MacGillivray S. Interventions for promoting the initiation of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD001688. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001688.pub3

Kennedy H, Yoshida  S, Costello A, Declercq E, Dias M, Duff E, Gherissi A, Kaufman K, McConville F, McFadden A, Michel-Schuldt M, Moyo NT, Schuiling K, Speciale AM, Renfrew MJ. (2016) Asking different questions: research priorities to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Lancet Global Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30183-8

Symon A, Pringle J, Cheyne H, Downe S, Hundley V, Lee E, Lynn F, McFadden A, McNeill J, Renfrew MJ, Ross-Davie M, van Teijlingen E, Whitford H, Alderdice F. (2016) Midwifery-led antenatal care models: mapping a systematic review to an evidence-based quality framework to identify key components and characteristics of care. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16, 1-15.

McFadden A, Mason F, Baker J, Begin F, Dykes F, Grummer-Strawn L, Kenney-Muir N, Whitford H, Zehner E, Renfrew MJ. (2016) Spotlight on infant formula: coordinated global action needed. The Lancet, 387(10017), 413-415.


McFadden A, Muir N, Mason F, Whitford H, Renfrew MJ. (2015) How do global organisations work best to influence political commitment at country level to protect and promote breastfeeding and support women to breastfeed? Maternal and Child Nutrition, 11(S2), 1-129.

Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Bastos MH, Campbell J, Channon AA, Cheung NF et al. Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence-informed framework for maternal and newborn care. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 2015 Jan; 70(1):15-17. Available from:  10.1097/01.ogx.0000460706.27837.c4

McFadden A, Green JM, McLeish J, McCormick F, Williams V, Renfrew MJ. (2015) Healthy Start vitamins—a missed opportunity: findings of a multi-method study. BMJ Open; 5(1).


Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Bastos MH, Campbell J, Channon AA, Cheung NF, Delage Silva DRA, Downe S, Kennedy HP, Malata A, McCormick F, Wick L, Declercq E. (2014) Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence informed framework for maternal and newborn care. The Lancet 384(9948) 1129-1145.

ten Hoope-Bender P, de Bernis L  Campbell Downe S, Fauveau V, Fogstad H, Homer CS, Kennedy HP, Matthews Z, McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Van Lerberghe W . (2014) Improving maternal and newborn health through midwifery. Lancet 384(9949) 1226-1235.

McFadden A, Green JM, Williams V, McLeish J, McCormick F, Fox-Rushby J, Renfrew MJ. (2014) Can food vouchers improve nutrition and reduce health inequalities in low-income mothers and young children: a multi-method evaluation of the experiences of beneficiaries and practitioners of the Healthy Start programme in England? BMC Public Health 14:148

McFadden A, Atkin K, Renfrew, M (2014) The impact of transnational migration on intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practice related to breastfeeding. Midwifery 30(4) 439-446


McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Atkin K (2013) Does cultural context make a difference to women’s experiences of maternity care?  A qualitative study comparing the perspectives of breastfeeding women of Bangladeshi origin and health practitioners. Health Expectations 2013 Dec;16(4):e124-e135.


McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Atkin A (2012) Using qualitative research findings to analyse how breastfeeding public health recommendations can be tailored to meet the needs of women of Bangladeshi origin living in England. Journal of Research in Nursing 17(2) p159-178  


Dyson L, Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, McCormick F, Herbert G, Thomas J (2010) Policy and public health recommendations to promote the initiation and duration of breast-feeding in developed country settings. Public Health Nutrition 13, 137-144


Renfrew MJ, Dyson L, Herbert G, McFadden A, McCormick F, Thomas J, Spiby H (2008) Developing evidence-based recommendations in public health --incorporating the views of practitioners, service users and user representatives. Health Expectations 11: 3-15.

Renfrew MJ, McLoughlin M, McFadden A (2008) Cleaning and sterilisation of infant feeding equipment: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition; 11, 1188-1199


McFadden A, Toole G (2006) Exploring women’s views of breastfeeding: a focus group study within an area with high levels of socio-economic deprivation. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 156-168

McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Dykes F, Burt S (2006) Assessing learning needs for breastfeeding: Setting the scene. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 196 - 203.

Abbott S, Renfrew MJ, McFadden A (2006) ‘Informal’ learning to support breastfeeding: mapping local problems and opportunities. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 232 - 238.

Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Dykes F, Wallace L, Abbott S, Burt S, Kosmala-Anderson J (2006) Addressing the learning deficit in breastfeeding: strategies for change. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 239 - 244.

Renfrew MJ, Herbert G, Wallace L, Spiby H, McFadden A (2006) Developing practice in breastfeeding. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 245 - 261.




Use of UK health services by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers: triangulation of two mixed methods studies. Lancet Public Health Science Conference, London, November 2017.

Updating the evidence on supporting women to breastfeed. UNICEF Baby-Friendly Conference, November 2017, Telford, UK

Consultation on Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people’s engagement and trust in healthcare. European Public Health Association Annual Conference, Stockholm, November 2017

The Lancet Series on Midwifery: Survey of Impact. Normal Birth Conference, Grange-over-Sands, UK, October 2017

Community engagement to enhance trust between Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, and mainstream maternity services: a multi-method exploratory study, 31st Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives, Toronto, June 2017

Updating the evidence on the steps to promote and support breastfeeding, 7th Nordic Breastfeeding Conference, Oslo, Norway, March 2017

Massage for promoting growth and development of preterm and low birth-weight infants, RICH-MAINN Conference, Falun, Sweden. August 2016

Strategies to influence political commitment to breastfeeding: six country case studies, Nutrition and Nurture in Infancy and Childhood: Bio-cultural Perspectives Conference, Grange-over-Sands, UK. June 2015

Accessibility of Healthy Start to women and young children in low income families: findings of a multi-method evaluation. Poster Presentation, Health Services Research Network Symposium, Nottingham, June 2014

Women’s perceptions of insufficient milk. Oral Presentation, International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress, Prague, June 2014.

Understanding the use of vouchers and vitamins: an evaluation of Healthy Start in England. Community Practitioner and Health Visitor Association Annual Conference, York, October 2013. Awarded prize for best research poster.

The impact of migration on the intergenerational transmission of breastfeeding knowledge and practices. BSA Human Reproduction Study Group, 2012 Annual Conference, Lancaster. June 2012

Exploring breastfeeding support for women of Bangladeshi origin in the UK. International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress, Durban, S. Africa June 2011.

Breastfeeding support for women of Bangladeshi origin in the UK. Maternal and Infant Nutrition and Nurture Conference, University of Central Lancashire, Grange over Sands. 2009

You have to keep your breast hidden: How women of Bangladeshi origin navigated breastfeeding and maintaining modesty in the context of religious, ethnic and gender identities. The Mother War: Current trends and critical discourses conference, University of Surrey 2009

Assessing practitioners learning needs in breastfeeding. Evidence-based Midwifery Network 3rd International Conference, Leicester 2008

Assessing learning needs for breastfeeding (poster presentation) RCM Annual Conference and Exhibition, Torquay 2006

Invited speaker

The Lancet Series on Midwifery: what impact has it had and what are the next steps. Scottish Midwifery and Maternity Festival, Edinburgh, November 2017

Making breastfeeding research count. Advancing Midwifery Research Conference, Belfast, November 2017.

Support for healthy breastfeeding women with healthy term babies, Health Evidence Webinar, McMasters University. October 2017.

Breastfeeding – updating the evidence, Better Start Conference, Nottingham, July 2017

Trust, Power and Action for Health (facilitated workshop with N. Forster), Health on the Margins, Leeds, June 2017.

Updating evidence for the WHO Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, First Steps Nutrition Annual Conference, London, April 2017.

The Lancet Series on Midwifery: why is it important for human rights? (Film with Mary Renfrew and Andrew Symon), Human Rights in Childbirth Conference, Mumbai, India, February 2017.

Spotlight on infant formula: why action to tackle the harmful practices of companies is needed. iLactation Online Conference, Spring and Summer 2017.

Unlocking the potential of the Lancet Framework for Quality Maternal and Newborn Care for midwifery research, education and practice, Better birth – a new perspective, 4th Winterthur Symposium of Midwifery, Zurich University of Applied Technology, Winterthur, Switzerland. January 2017

Research with socially excluded people (facilitated workshop with E Rogers, S Ainine, E Such) National Conference on Socially Inclusive Dentistry, Nottingham, England. November 2016.

Enhancing trust between health services and Gypsy/Travellers. Federation of Clinical Schools Research Symposium, Crieff, Scotland, February 2016

From evidence to policy and everyday practice: Implications for midwifery. WHO South East Asia Regional Meeting on Strengthening midwifery to improve maternal and newborn health, New Delhi, India, August 2015

The Lancet Series on Midwifery: a new approach to quality maternity care and inter-professional collaboration, After Work Lecture, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland, July 2015

The Lancet Series on Midwifery, Icelandic Midwives Association, Reykjavik, Iceland, May 2015

Realising the right of every woman and baby to the best possible maternal and newborn care, Human Rights in Childbirth Conference, Zagreb, Croatia, April 2015

The role of trust in promoting health. Health on the margins – commissioning to tackle health inequalities in Gypsy and Traveller communities, Birmingham, February 2015

Cultural competence: Promoting breastfeeding in Bangladeshi mothers, 2nd National Child Health Conference, Telford, April 2012

Breastfeeding support for Bangladeshi women UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Conference, Bournemouth, November, 2009

Breastfeeding in BME Communities West Midlands Ethnic Minority Liaison Committee Reducing Perinatal and Infant Mortality Conference, December, Walsall 2008.