Skip to main content

History & Track Record

UC San Diego has a rich history of advancing human milk research and advocacy across the sciences. At the Human Milk Institute, we are building on the legacy of the early pioneers in the space. See our story below.


1977 – Early Pioneers
Establishment of the San Diego Lactation Program at UC San Diego Medical Center by Audrey Naylor, MD, DrPH, and Ruth Wester, RN, PNP.

1978 – Developing First Infrastructures
Establishment of the California Teratogen Information Service, the earliest beginnings of what would eventually become the MotherToBaby (MTB) service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS).

MTB specializes in answering questions about the safety/risk of exposures, such as medications, vaccines, chemicals, herbal products, substances of abuse, maternal health conditions and much more, during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


1985 – WellStart Spin Out
San Diego Lactation Program incorporates as WellStart and becomes an independent non-profit with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Lactation Management Education (LME) Program.

653 leading health professionals from 55 countries participated in the LME program from 1983 to 1998. Participation in the LME program included a four-week entry course in San Diego offered in English, Spanish, French or Russian. HMI faculty member, Dr. Philip Anderson lectured on drugs and breastfeeding in all but one of the courses, starting in 1983.


1991 – Birth of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
WellStart participates in the birth of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), develops the assessment criteria, methodology and tools, and the initial 18-hour course in support of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

In coordination with UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO), WellStart hosts the inaugural BFHI Master Assessors/Trainers Workshop in San Diego.

WellStart is designated a WHO Collaborating Center for Breastfeeding Promotion and Protection with Particular Emphasis on Lactation Management Education.


2006 - Education and Clinical Application
UC San Diego is one of the first academic hospitals to be certified as a Baby-Friendly Hospital by BFHI.

UC San Diego Health expands its focus to include clinical education for preterm infants in the NICU by forming the Supporting Premature Infant Nutrition (SPIN) academic program. The idea for a milk lab is presented to UC San Diego Health leadership.

The idea receives support and the lab is established to help further the clinical application of human milk. Milk is now stored and prepared for preterm infants in the NICU.

LactMed®, the online drugs and lactation database, goes live at the National Library of Medicine Toxnet site on April 10.

2009 – Investing in Basic Research
UC San Diego Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics hires Lars Bode as PhD faculty to start a basic research lab to investigate the role of human milk components on infant health and development.

Over the next decade, Dr. Bode’s team discovers the protective role of human milk oligosaccharides on diseases like necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants.

Dr. Bode becomes a leader in the field, directs the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML, 2014-2016), and eventually helps create UC San Diego Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence (MOMI CORE) and the Human Milk Institute (HMI).


Establishment of the UC San Diego Center for the Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development, the precursor to the Center for Better Beginnings in the Department of Pediatrics.

2014 – Research Resource
Establishment of Mommy’s Milk, UC San Diego Human Milk Research Biorepository housed in the Center for Better Beginnings, Department of Pediatrics as the first U.S. and Canada-wide human milk research resource.

Human milk samples and longitudinal clinical data from lactating persons and breastfed infants and toddlers are collected and available to address multiple research questions.

2015 – Scaling
In response to the need for pasteurized human donor milk for hospitals and individuals, UC Health establishes the UC Health Milk Bank thanks in part to a $1M donation for the Johnson family. The Johnson family gift also helps establish MOMI CORE at UC San Diego.

2017 – Building Critical Mass
The Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence (MOMI CORE) opens on the main UC San Diego campus with a generous endowment supported by the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation. MOMI CORE offers annual seed grants to attract multidisciplinary collaborators with the aim to build critical mass in human milk research.


2020 – UC Health Milk Bank Becomes Part of HMBANA
The University of California Health Milk bank opens and is accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

2021 – Leading the Way on a National Level
UC San Diego successfully competes for one of two Maternal and Pediatric Precision in Therapeutics (MPRINT) Centers of Excellence in Therapeutics (CET) funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The UC San Diego MRPINT CET takes a human milk-centered approach to investigate the role of maternal and pediatric therapeutics at intersections of the mother-milk-infant ‘triad’ and offers a Milk Analytics Core (MAC) as a national resource.

2022 – Connecting the Dots on a Global Scale
MOMI CORE joins the Global Human Milk Research Consortium (GHMRC) as one of five organizations committed to promoting excellence in human milk and breastfeeding research to contribute meaningfully to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO Global Target.

The New Home for Global Human Milk Innovation
HMI is established, creating a central hub that brings together the organizations at the forefront of human milk research, clinical care, milk banking, education, and public and global health to expand understanding of human milk and improve lifelong health worldwide.