Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Otten, Charlotte M., 1915-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Breast feeding


This thesis examines the biosocial consequences of culturally reduced lactation. Breast feeding has been largely replaced by bottle feeding in Western nations. The use of artificial infant foods is disrupting traditional breast feeding patterns. Investigations in several non Western cultures indicate that reduced lactation leads to increased death rates and disease incidence, associated with protein-calorie deficiency syndromes and gastrointestinal disorders in infants. Breast cancer has increased in groups who practice less bottle feeding. The child spacing mechanism of post partum lactation amenorrhea is also upset when artificial foods replace nursing. Further research focusing on social factors which affect, and are affected by, these consequences is indicated. In Western nations, bottle feeding has freed mothers for employment soon after childbirth. Husband and wife roles are also being altered, since both are capable of bottle feeding infants. A recent reversal among educated Western women to nurse infants again also carries important implications. Such women may be off the job market for prolonged periods of time. The relationship between increased breast cancer and reduced lactation is significant among Western women, who have greater longevity than do those women living in developing regions. In developing regions, migrations to industrializing towns or cities lead to a weakening of family ties. Marital instability becomes more frequent. Women are becoming financially independent as a result. They are no longer able to devote full attention to child care because of the need to work. Reducing lactation, however, results in the economic burden of buying commercial milk substitutes, as well as paying medical expenses resulting from the increased disorders of bottle fed infants. Questions of who will pay these expenses and provide the supplementary food are pertinent. Family size may be limited by the increasing expense of raising children. The effects of these changes on demographic features may be important in a number of countries. Both fertility and infant mortality rates rise, which implies a balancing effect. However, modern medicine, such as the use of antibiotics, has reduced mortality rates. The material presented in this paper hopefully will be of use to future studies relating to these social patterns.


Includes bibliographical references.


70 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type