A Biocultural Approach to Breastfeeding Interactions in Central Africa



ABSTRACT  Anthropologists have long recognized that breastfeeding involves much more than feeding; it entails intimate social interactions between infants or children and their mothers. However, breastfeeding has predominantly been studied with respect to structural features (frequency, timing) as well as nutritional and health aspects of infant feeding. Thus, in this study we complement previous anthropological studies by examining social interactions that occur during breastfeeding among the Aka and Bofi foragers and Ngandu and Bofi farmers at various ages (three to four months, nine to ten months, toddlers). Further, we use an integrated biocultural perspective to explore how patterns of breastfeeding and social interactions can be shaped by economic constraints, cultural values, and children's development. Overall, our findings illustrate how biological and cultural factors interact and provide useful explanations of variations in breastfeeding structure and social interactions more so than either perspective alone. [breastfeeding, Central African foragers and farmers, biocultural, infants and toddlers, social interactions]