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Variation in Infant Feeding Practices in an Andean Community

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Vitzthum, Virginia J. "Variation in Infant Feeding Practices in an Andean Community." Multidisciplinary Studies in Andean Anthropology, Michigan Discussions in Anthropology, 8(Fall1988): 137-56.

Infant health and maternal fertility are directly affected by patterns of infant feeding, yet the relationships among these variables are obscure, in part because of a lack of quantitative information. Here, observational and survey data provide the basis for an analysis of infant feeding practices and their effects in a rural Andean community.

Generally, infants are first nursed within 48 hours of birth; nursing displays diurnal variation, being greatest in the morning; co-sleeping, and probably night-nursing, continue far longer than day nursing; exclusive bottle-use or exclusive nursing are very rare. "Weaning" is an extended process of continually modified feeding routines, rather than an abrupt event. There is no detectable difference in the feeding patterns of girl and boy infants. There are significant differences in the feeding practices of poorer and wealthier mothers.

Infant feeding practices currently in use in Nuoa may have health benefits for the infants of wealthier women but may be deleterious for poorer women's offspring. Clearly, nursing and supplemental feeding patterns have dramatically shortened the duration of post-partum amenor- rhea in wealthier women.

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