"Mammals Suck Milk": Spotlight on the Research of Former FFHI Postdoc Dr. Katie Hinde


When Dr. Katie Hinde was a graduate student at UCLA working on dissertation research on lactation in monkeys, she remarks that we knew little about lactation among non-human primates. In 2005, Dr. Hinde was invited to UC Davis to study at the California Primate Research Center. Once there, she focused on both lactation research and behavioral research among the infant and mother rhesus monkeys. She studied how variation in mother’s milk influences infant development in rhesus macaques.

At Davis, Dr. Hinde began to talk with FFHI Director Bruce German about ongoing lactation studies and the newly-forming Milk Bioactives and Functional Glycobiology programs. After she received her Ph.D. from UCLA, Dr. Hinde continued to work with researchers at the Foods for Health Institute; she also taught at UC Santa Barbara and published her dissertation research that described how rhesus monkey mothers produce different milk depending on the sex of their offspring. Dr. Hinde observed that male babies received more protein, sugar, and fat and that female babies received mostly sugars and more breast milk overall.

Rhesus macaques are especially interesting to Dr. Hinde because they may offer insights into human health. Rhesus macaques not only share many genes with human beings, but they deal with similar social arrangements and psychological interactions. Dr. Hinde’s research was some of the first to suggest that rhesus macaques behavioral outcomes can provide unique contributions for understanding how early nutrition shapes human behavior and personalities.

Dr. Hinde’s interesting work was recognized through a senior research grant from the National Science Foundation titled, “Longitudinal Investigation of Maternal Influences on Infant Outcomes Mediated by Physiological Investment and Behavioral Care during Lactation in Rhesus Macaques,” which was particularly impressive for a recent Ph.D.

Dr. Hinde has continued to research the lactation patterns and milk composition of rhesus macaques and has published widely on biological and behavior effects that result from variations in mother’s milk. Studies from Dr. Hinde’s research program have been published in Current Biology, American Journal of Human Biology, American Journal of Primatology, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Medical Primatology, and Developmental Psychobiology.

In 2010, Dr. Hinde was hired as an Assistant Professor in Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, but she deferred for a year to finish running her NSF-funded study. Dr. Hinde also began her interesting blog, “Mammals Suck … Milk!” which tracks the rapid advancements in milk research and the implications for nutrition, medicine, psychology, and evolutionary biology. Dr. Hinde hopes that her blog can bring together the large community of milk researchers to share their work and start collaborative conversations. Dr. Hinde would like her blog to translate milk research to the public and ultimately communicate the value of this research for the public good.

In addition to her teaching, research, and blogging, Dr. Hinde launched the ARMMS (Archive of Rhesus Macaques Milk Samples) program – a database of rhesus macaques’ milk. Dr. Hinde and her team have collected milk from over 250 mothers in over 700 milking events, or multiple points in the life of the rhesus macaques. The ARMMS program has the potential to simulate an incredible body of knowledge and contribute greatly to our understanding of milk, but also the life histories of the subjects.