Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Duration of Breast Feeding in Ancestral Environments

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_818-1



Contemporary studies reveal widespread global variation in breastfeeding patterns, providing a fascinating example of human behavioral flexibility (Sellen 2009). However, human infant behavior and physiology evolved under environmental conditions that differ notably from those in which most humans live today. Current evidence places the origin of Homo sapiens at ~200,000 years ago (Conroy and Pontzer 2012). Ancestral Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers for most of the species’ existence until agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization emerged-all within the past ~11,000 years (Ellis et al. 2013). Under ancestral conditions of hunting, gathering, and high infant mortality, infant survival depended on the immunological, hormonal, and nutritional factors in maternal breastmilk (Hinde and Milligan 2011; Volk 2009).

Prolonged breastfeeding...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Arnocky
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and SciencesNipissing UniversityNorth BayCanada