According to Dr. Katherine Dettwyler, an esteemed anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate, the natural human weaning age is 2.5-7 years of age. Taking clues from numerous anthropological and animal studies, Dettwyler delves into the fascinating world of breastfeeding duration that appears to have biological underpinnings. Here’s a summary of her evidence supporting these claims:
- Length of Pregnancy: Drawing comparisons from our primate cousins, chimpanzees and gorillas, who nurse over six times the length of their gestation, suggesting that humans could nurse for approximately 4.5 years.
- Proportionate Bodyweight: Delving into other primate studies, many tend to wean when they reach one-third of their adult bodyweight. Translating this to humans would imply a weaning age of about four to seven years.
- Dental Eruption: Interestingly, some primates continue nursing until their first permanent molars erupt. In the context of humans, this occurs around 5.5 to 6 years of age.
- Quadrupling Birth Weight: in large many mammals, weaning often occurs after their birth weight has quadrupled. For us humans, this milestone happens around 27-30 months.
Dr. Katherine's research reveals the potential biological underpinnings of breastfeeding duration. While societal norms may differ, it's important to recognize the significance of this natural process and the benefits it brings to both mothers and children. Let's continue the dialogue on nurturing and nourishing our little (and big!) ones with the utmost love and care!