Alanna Rudzik (Anthropology) has recently published an article titled “Infant sleep and feeding in evolutionary perspective” in the International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, 6(1): 17-20.
Infant sleep and infant feeding are essential concerns for new parents who are learning to care for an infant. The expectations of infants with regard to feeding and sleep are fundamentally shaped by our evolutionary legacy as mammals and primates, as well as the more recent evolutionary history of our own human lineage. The first part of this article provides a review of our evolutionary legacy and how this legacy impacts infant biological expectations for proximity to caregivers, feeding and sleep. At the same time, humans are fundamentally biocultural: our biology is at all times shaped by and intertwined with culture. The second part of the article considers how, despite infants’ biological expectations, cultural assumptions can shape parental beliefs and practices about infant feeding and sleep, and provides solid evidence related to infant sleep duration and night-waking. This information can be used to educate and reassure new parents about normal infant sleep.