A study of the barium levels in a Neanderthal child's fossilized molar suggests that the child had been breastfed exclusively for seven months, and completely weaned by 14 months—way earlier than the attachment-parented kids in last year's Time cover story.
The findings—the first to document diet transitions in Neanderthals and reported in the journal Nature—of the Neanderthal weaning schedule are in line with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggests exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and supplemental breastfeeding for another six months. But they also fly in the face of lactation enthusiasts and the World Health Organization who often point to the delayed weaning of humans in modern, nonindustrial societies as evidence that breastfeeding well into toddlerhood is "natural."
While the study doesn't suggest that this is typical Neanderthal behavior, the lactation extremist community—who seem to be against information they perceive as harmful to their cause, however scientific, and who apparently think that women aren't smart enough to make their own informed choices—are already coming out in full force in the comments section of The New York Times article. Many believe that the mother died, and that's why the child was weaned at 14 months; or that being weaned early is what killed this particular child. Others, however, are actually interpreting the study as evidence that not breastfeeding a child for three years is what caused the extinction of Neanderthals.
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