A Brief History of Weaning

Looking at human society as a whole across history the average age of weaning a child fromt he breast has been between the ages of two to four.

Until the twentieth century children in China and Japan breastfed until ages of four or five.  In 1967 anthropologist Margaret Mead collaborated with breastfeeding researcher Niles newton to publish an article describing the weaning practices of sixty-four cultures’ traitional weaning practices. They found that only one culture routinely weaned their children as young as six months.

Historically breastfeeding for years was common practice in many times and places.  The Koran reccommends breastfeeding until age two and from the Christian Bible we find that Moses was breastfed for three years.  In England and the US two to four years of breastfeeding was typical.  Authors of child care texts published in the early 1700’s expressed disapprovement of breastfed four year olds, suggesting that there were many around at that time.  however by 1850 breastfeeding for only eleven months was recommended and breastfeeding for two years time was criticized.

Weaning could also be a dangerous and deadly time for a child as weaning death was a fairly common epitath on a child’s tombstonesin the American Old West.

Related Reading