Infants and their feeding
The human infancy stage begins about one month after birth and ends at about 36 months. This is usually coincident with the termination of lactation, which usually takes by 30-36 months in traditional societies. Anthropologists define traditional societies as hunter-gatherer (forager), horticultural and pre-industrial agricultural and pastoral societies that existed before industrialization and urbanization. As for all mammals, human infancy is the period when the mother provides all or some nourishment to her offspring via lactation, or by some culturally derived imitation of lactation. One reason for this is that infants do not have teeth, and thus cannot eat solid food. By 30 months of age the deciduous dentition (the so-called «milk teeth») have emerged through the gums and feeding with children’s foods and some adult-like foods is possible. Complementary foods, such as cereals, are often added by 6-12 months. Breast-feeding and appropriate complementary feeding provide all required nutrients, immune factors, and other biological substances to the infant. There are important physiological, social, cognitive, and emotional benefits to both baby and mother.
Both breast and complementary feeding are shown in the images. «The Family of St. Anne» shows these modes of feeding in the left and right foreground. The seated women in the foreground are Mary’s half-sisters, the other daughters of Saint Anne, who is the elderly woman to the right of the arch. Other medieval paintings depict Mary nursing an infant Jesus. The painting on the right is part of a series Restoring the Art of Breastfeeding. The artist writes:
«With this series I intend to educate, inspire, empower, challenge social norms and most of all normalize breastfeeding. […] These paintings showcase many different nursing relationships; some of which exist outside of people’s perception of what normal breastfeeding looks like […] [in the United States] 49 out of 50 states currently have laws to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public but women are still ostracized and harassed for doing so every day. […] I would like to share a story to put things in perspective: A Chimpanzee was raised in captivity and got pregnant without ever being around other mothers and their young. When her baby was born, she didn’t know what to do or how to feed her baby. The zookeepers eventually had to intervene and artificially feed the baby. When she became pregnant again, the zoo had an idea and contacted the local chapter of ‘La Leche League’ (LLL). Members of LLL started going to the zoo with their babies, feeding them in front of the gestating chimpanzee so she could see how fellow primates do it. Once her baby was born they returned to feed next to her. Even though she stumbled a bit at first, they taught her by example and she prevailed. Although breastfeeding is natural it doesn’t always come naturally. In many cases mothers need direction, practice and community. Just like the Chimpanzee, many new mothers have never witnessed another woman breastfeed before they became a mother themselves. I find this absurd and it is something I wish to change!» [Barry Bogin]