Cambridge Elements

We've partnered with Cambridge University Press to bring you an innovative publication series.

Evolutionary thinking has a solid foothold in nearly all of the social and behavioral sciences. Not only does an evolutionary approach benefit scholars trying to understand all levels of human functioning, but it also can be applied to solving important real-world social issues. To this end, the Evolution Institute has partnered with Cambridge University Press to bring you an exciting new publication series: Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science. Cambridge Elements are an innovative concept in academic publishing that provide a dynamic reference resource in an accessible, hybrid format. Our series features a collection of authoritative literature reviews, presents an advanced introduction to both the foundational and emerging topics in Applied Evolutionary Science, and provides tutorials appropriate for graduate teaching as well as applications for policymakers, educators, social workers, and community organizers.

Improving Breastfeeding Rates

Breastfeeding is championed as an effective way to improve global health, associated with improved health outcomes for children and mothers. Various public health strategies to promote breastfeeding have been developed and implemented for over four decades, yet progress has stagnated, and exclusive breastfeeding rates remain low globally. From an evolutionary anthropological perspective, low breastfeeding rates seem like an 'evolutionary puzzle'; breastfeeding is a behaviour which confers survival and fitness advantage to children and mothers, yet so many mothers do not breastfeed exclusively or at all. Is this a globally maladaptive behaviour? Framing breastfeeding as a maternal investment behaviour, an evolutionary perspective directs us to consider the fitness costs of breastfeeding, together with the role of social learning and cultural norms. Indeed, an evolutionary anthropological perspective provides insights to why some breastfeeding-promotion strategies may have been ineffective, while pointing to potentially promising policies and practices which have been overlooked.

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