Weaning age isn’t standard among mothers, but is still a unique human trait
Is there a norm when it comes to how long a mom breastfeeds her baby? Depending on the mother’s culture, nursing an infant into toddlerhood might come with negative stigma, or might be the accepted standard.
Katie Hinde, an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University who studies mother’s milk, explained that biologically, there isn’t one right time to begin weaning. But humans’ early weaning (as compared to other primates) may have given our ancestors an advantage.
“Unlike orangutan, chimpanzee or gorilla moms, who have to do everything themselves, according to Dr. Hinde, ancient human moms got help from other people — fathers, grandmas, siblings. As we evolved to wean sooner and share child care duties, infants became less costly to their mothers. That may have meant we could have more babies. And evolutionarily speaking, more young means a more successful species.”
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