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The “weanling’s dilemma” revisited: Evolving bodies of evidence and the problem of infant paleodietary interpretation

Kendall, Ellen J and Millard, Andrew R and Beaumont, Julia (2021) 'The “weanling’s dilemma” revisited: Evolving bodies of evidence and the problem of infant paleodietary interpretation.', American journal of physical anthropology., 175 (S72). pp. 57-78.

Abstract

Breastfeeding is known to be a powerful mediator of maternal and childhood health, with impacts throughout the lifecourse. Paleodietary studies of the past thirty years have accordingly taken an enduring interest in the health and diet of young children as a potential indicator of population fertility, subsistence, and mortality patterns. While progress has been made in recent decades towards acknowledging the agency of children, many paleodietary reconstructions have failed to incorporate developments in cognate disciplines revealing synergistic dynamics between maternal and offspring biology. Central to this understanding has been heavy reliance on the “weanling’s dilemma”, in which infants are thought to face a bleak choice between loss of immunity or malnutrition. Using a review of immunological and epidemiological evidence for the dynamic and supportive role that breastfeeding plays throughout the complementary feeding period, this paper offers context and nuance for understanding past feeding transitions. We suggest that future interpretative frameworks for infant paleodietary and bioarchaeological research should include a broad knowledge base that keeps pace with relevant developments outside of those disciplines.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 18 January 2022.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
(1247Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.24207
Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Kendall, E, Millard, A, Beaumont, J. The “weanling's dilemma” revisited: Evolving bodies of evidence and the problem of infant paleodietary interpretation. Yearbook Phys Anthropol. 2021; 1– 22., which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.24207. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Date accepted:06 December 2020
Date deposited:13 January 2021
Date of first online publication:18 January 2021
Date first made open access:18 January 2022

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