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Children and Childhood in Bioarchaeology$
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Patrick Beauchesne and Sabrina C. Agarwal

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056807

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056807.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Biocultural Influences of Total versus Exclusive Breastfeeding

Biocultural Influences of Total versus Exclusive Breastfeeding

Stable Isotope Evidence of European and Asian Trends for the Last 10,000 Years

Chapter:
(p.61) 2 Biocultural Influences of Total versus Exclusive Breastfeeding
Source:
Children and Childhood in Bioarchaeology
Author(s):

Jessica Pearson

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813056807.003.0003

In chapter 2, Pearson uses stable isotope data from Europe and Asia to construct breastfeeding and weaning trends of the past 10,000 years. Human breastfeeding is a complex process that is biologically and culturally mediated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, contemporary newborn infants should be exclusively breastfed (EBF) with maternal milk (or with formula that has nutritional equivalence) from birth to four to -six months. Weaning begins when breast milk is slowly replaced with solid food until the infant’s diet is primarily based on elements of the adult’s diet. There are no recommendations concerning the optimal duration of total breastfeeding (TBF), suggesting that the weaning process, including the weaning food employed, can be dictated by the cultural demands and constructs within the caregiver’s community; this allows mothers and weaning infants to act as agents in the weaning process. Here, stable isotope analysis of carbon (δ‎13C) and nitrogen (δ‎15N) isotope data from twenty-two archaeological sites dated to the last 10,000 years are compared to reveal biocultural patterns in the nature and timing of infant weaning practices. The central questions are: To what extent is TBF driven by societal structure and/or individual agency, and is EBF more fixed biologically?

Keywords:   Breastfeeding, Weaning, Stable Isotope Analysis, World Health Organization (WHO), Agency

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