Am J Biol Anthropol. 2023 Aug;181 Suppl 76:81-93. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.24710. Epub 2023 Feb 23.


Takumi Tsutaya  1   2 Nozomi Mizushima  3



Breastfeeding and weaning are actively studied from evolutionary, medical, and social research perspectives because of their close association with infant mortality, lifetime health, and human population dynamics. Each discipline benefits from an interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge regarding the bases, processes, and consequences of these phenomena. However, current social issues related to breastfeeding and weaning have received little attention from an evolutionary biology perspective. We address this gap by reviewing current social issues related to human breastfeeding and weaning in an evolutionary framework. This approach helps build a conceptual framework with the goal of better understanding ultimate causes of or influences on these current social issues. The six social issues reviewed here fall into three categories: the spatiotemporal constraints of breastfeeding, abuse of breast milk as valuable material, and mismatch in breastfeeding practices. Some of these issues have an evolutionary basis. We analyze the structure of these social issues and discuss their possible solutions in terms of extension of the trade-off theory in evolutionary biology. Our discussion on the current social issues in breastfeeding and weaning highlights the effectiveness of an approach rooted in evolutionary theory and biological anthropology.

Keywords: breastfeeding and weaning; evolutionary biology; mismatch; social issues; trade-off.

© 2023 The Authors. American Association of Biological Anthropologists published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

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