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The milky way: the implications of using animal milk products in infant feeding

By R. Howcroft, G. Eriksson, K. Liden

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Animal milks have been used in infant feeding for at least a few millennia, but this can only have become a common practice after the domestication of dairy animals during the Neolithic. Neolithic population increase has often been attributed to the effect of a reduction in breastfeeding duration on female fertility. It is possible, therefore, that animal milks were first introduced to the infant diet at this time as a replacement for the lost breastmilk. Milks are complex liquids and are species specific. The consumption of the milk of one species by the infants of another thus has implications for the welfare of those infants. This paper reviews some of the differences between the milks of three ruminant species and human milk and discusses what the health consequences of introducing these animal milks to the infant diet are likely to have been. It is argued that, except in extreme circumstances, animal milks would fail to adequately compensate for the reduction in breastmilk consumption. Fermented milk products could however have been valuable weaning foods if consumed alongside other iron-rich products.

Publication Title Anthropozoologica
Volume 47
Issue 2
Pages 31-43
ISBN/ISSN 0761-3032
DOI 10.5252/az2012n2a3
Language English
Author Address Archaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal production
  2. Animals
  3. Diets
  4. Domestication
  5. Feeding
  6. Fertility.
  7. Humans
  8. Infants
  9. Iron
  10. Mammals
  11. Men
  12. Milk and dairy products
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Primates
  15. Reviews
  16. vertebrates
  17. weaning
  1. peer-reviewed