Breastfeeding is a biocultural phenomenon: not only is it a biological process, but it is also a culturally determined behavior. As such, it has important implications for understanding the past, present, and future condition of our species. In general, scholars have emphasized either the biological or the cultural aspects of breastfeeding, but not both. As biological anthropologists the editors of this volume feel that an evolutionary approach combining both aspects is essential. One of the goals of their book is to incorporate data from diverse fields to present a more holistic view of breastfeeding, through the inclusion of research from a number of different disciplines, including biological and social/cultural anthropology, nutrition, and medicine. The resulting book, presenting the complexity of the issues surrounding very basic decisions about infant nutrition, will fill a void in the existing literature on breastfeeding.
“This volume makes an important contribution to the literature on the biocultural nature of breastfeeding, a behavior that is critical to the survival of the human species…. [T]his collection provides a wealth of information about the interplay of culture and biology as they relate to breastfeeding and its influence on maternal and infant health. Many of the chapters have implications for the development of policy relating to the support of breastfeeding, such as the Family Leave Act and health care reform. This unique volume will thus be useful for health care professionals and health policy makers, as well as biological and cultural anthropologists.”
—Anne L. Wright, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
“One hundred years ago, the vast majority of infants in the United States were breastfed. They were typically weaned anywhere between two and four years of age. Today the statistics are quite different. At the present time, about one-half of infants in the United States are breastfed, and most are weaned by the time they are six months old. Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives examines the biological and cultural reasons for this shift in behavior…. This volume of fifteen chapters, by almost as many authors, provides readers with an abundance of information on breastfeeding.”
—Christine A. Behrendt, The Quarterly Review of Biology