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"Extinct Human Species likely Breast Fed for Up to a Year after Birth"

  • National Institutes of Health
  • New York, NY
  • (July 15, 2019)

Three million years ago, Australopithecus africanus was one of the first human ancestor species to live across the southern African grasslands and forests. A new study performed by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in Nature suggests that like modern humans, they breastfed their babies for up to a year after they were born. “Seeing how breastfeeding has evolved over time can inform best practices for modern humans by bringing in evolutionary medicine. Our results show this species is a little closer to humans than the other great apes which have such different nursing behaviors,” said author Christine Austin, PhD, assistant professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "These are important findings from an evolutionary perspective, because humans have long childhoods and short breastfeeding periods while apes have longer breastfeeding periods than humans do. We're still in the dark about why or when we made that change and what the effect of more recent major changes in breastfeeding, with agriculture and industrialization, could have on mothers' and babies' health."

— Christine Austin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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