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Research Projects

Current Studies

Covid-19: Infant Feeding Practices and Household Food Security Survey

The Latch Lab of UC Merced is conducting a survey to better understand how the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is impacting infant nutrition. This 10-15-minute survey is for parents or guardians, 18 years or older, of infants that are under 1 year old. Information provided will be used to educate and raise awareness about the challenges that new parents are facing during this pandemic. If you are not the parent/caregiver of an infant, we encourage you to share this link with parents you know. Thank you for your time and stay safe!
Link to survey:

Developmental Impact of Bio-active Factors in Human Milk

The LATCH lab is studying how hormone levels in mothers’ milk impact infant sleep and activity levels across the day, starting in pregnancy and following mother and baby to 6-months postpartum.


Interested in Participating? We are specifically looking for pregnant mothers who plan to breastfeed and use a breast pump to express milk. Moms will be asked to provide small milk samples (for hormonal testing), saliva samples, poop samples (to look at how milk changes the microbiome) and to report on their mood and their baby's development at 1 week, 1-month, 3-months & 6 months of age.  To participate or to find out more...Please contact us at


Reducing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding image.jpeg

We have known for a long time that breast milk is the ideal form of nutrition for infants. Unfortunately, breastfeeding rates are lower in some racial and ethnic groups than in others. The reasons behind these racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding are not well understood, but likely are the result of a complex mix of factors such as socioeconomic status (e.g. poverty, education), structural barriers (e.g. racism, access to maternity leave, and lactation support), and cultural norms. Using a combination of experimental research and community-based partnerships with local hospitals, we hope to help identify the major contributors to racial disparities in breastfeeding and create solutions so that every baby gets the best possible start in life.

See discussion of some of our research, lead by Dr. Chelsea McKinney, in The New York Times.


Using Big Data to Connect Vulnerable Mothers with Health Care Services

In California, roughly 1 in 5 babies are born to mothers living in poverty.  Unless the cycle is disrupted, the children of these ‘at-risk’ mothers are themselves at dramatically elevated risk of chronic mental and physical maladies, incarceration, substance abuse, and academic failure as adults. Thanks to a generous grant from the Kay Family Foundation, the LATCH Lab is partnering with the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, and Chapman University to create a web-based algorithm that helps to identify and connect at-risk mothers with no-cost local health care services. Using big data to increase service utilization by vulnerable families has the potential improve the lives of at-risk mothers and their children and to save hospitals and tax payers millions of dollars over the next decade.

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