Mary Renfrew is Professor of Mother and Infant Health in the University of York, where she is Director of the Mother and Infant Research Unit.  A graduate of the Department of Nursing Studies in the University of Edinburgh, she then qualified as a midwife from the North Lothian School of Nursing and Midwifery. She gained her PhD in Edinburgh in 1982 while working with the Medical Research Council’s Reproductive Biology Unit. She has since worked in universities and hospitals in Oxford; Alberta, Canada; Leeds; and York. 

She established and led the national Midwifery Research Initiative at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in the University of Oxford, She founded the multidisciplinary Mother and Infant Research Unit (MIRU) in 1996; the research programme aims to improve the health and care of childbearing, women, their babies and families, with a particular focus on addressing inequalities in health. MIRU’s work has been used to inform policy and practice in infant feeding and maternity care nationally and internationally.

In addition to her extensive academic journal publications, she has written widely about infant feeding and about maternity care, and is author and editor of books for academic, professional and lay audiences. She has worked closely with service users and advocacy groups for many years, especially in the involvement of service users in research, and in involving advocacy groups in changing ways of working in service provision. 

She has been co-editor of the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group and a member of the Editorial Boards of Midwifery and Maternal and Child Nutrition. She has sat on Boards and Committees at national and international level including: Deputy Chair and member of the Nursing and Midwifery Panel of the universities’ Research Assessment Exercise; Medical Research Council Advisory Panel; International Council member, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action; member and co-chair of the Research Standing Committee of the International Confederation of Midwives; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Best Beginnings; Chair of the UK Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition; Council member, Nursing and Midwifery Council; and Chair of the WHO Strategic Committee for Maternal and Newborn Health. She is an inaugural Senior Investigator with the National Institute for Health Research.