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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Charlotte Russell

Ball, H.L. & Russell, C.K. (2012). Night-time nurturing: an evolutionary perspective on breastfeeding and sleep. In Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. Narváez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A. & Gleason, T. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 241-261.

Author(s) from Durham


Consideration of the phylogenetic depth and cross-cultural breadth of mother–infant biology and behavior illuminates contemporary infant care. Three key “ancestral environments” (AEs) have defined the care requirements of newborn humans (lactation, frequent suckling, and maternal close contact). These evolved requirements have been challenged by various “new cultural environments” (NCEs) propelling infant care in directions that are incongruent with evolved maternal and infant biology (e.g., postpartum separation of mothers and infants, widespread acceptance of nonhuman milk feeding). As a consequence, over the past century, infant feeding and sleeping have become decoupled from the mother's body—with far-reaching ramifications.