Social support during breast-feeding may help humans reproduce faster than non-human primates

By Joel Barnard

February 18, PopSci

For most of us, procuring a gallon of milk requires only a quick trip to the corner store. Breastfeeding mothers, on the other hand, need an estimated 30 percent more energy to keep a newborn nipper happy with fresh mama juice. Eating like a horse and lazing about are two ways to offset this extra energy demand, but another factor may contribute as well. According to a new study, support from family may play a key role in helping mothers conserve energy and therefore allow their bodies to prepare more quickly for another pregnancy.

The study, led by Barbara Piperata, assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State University, examined the postpartum practices of new mothers in the Brazillian Amazon. In this culture, women observe resguardo, a period of 40 or 41 days after birth during which they are restricted from performing strenuous household tasks. “Humans out-produce other primates. So we are examining to what degree this is related to our cultural flexibility,” said Piperata.

Read more this news quote

photo: Breastfeeding (By iStockPhoto)