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New edited volume informs breastfeeding through anthropological research

January 26, 2018

With the publication of a new volume on anthropological approaches to breastfeeding, two researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health hope to spark fresh conversations and research about breastfeeding.

The book, titled “Breastfeeding: New Anthropological Approaches,” is the first edited volume on anthropology and breastfeeding published in more than 20 years. It unites scholarship in the fields of sociocultural, biological and archaeological anthropology, and is the first book on breastfeeding to incorporate bioarchaeological perspectives.

“We are so proud!” said Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, IBCLC, who both contributed to and co-edited the volume. “Our hope was to showcase innovations in anthropological research on breastfeeding and to inspire cross-pollination of research across the discipline’s sub-fields. These anthropological perspectives add rich cross-cultural, ethnographic and evolutionary perspectives to public conversations about breastfeeding.”

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Kristin Tully

Dr. Kristin Tully

Palmquist, who is an assistant professor of maternal and child health in the Gillings School, also works with UNC’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI). Her book chapter highlights the connection between breastfeeding, beliefs about passive immunity and human milk sharing. Her CGBI colleague, Kristin Tully, PhD, co-authored a chapter on enabling breastfeeding.

“Mothers and their infants are dyads, but trade-offs are an inherent part of relationships,” said Tully, a research associate. “We do women a disservice when we do not prepare them for these realities. Families deserve support on the interrelated domains that impact realization of their health goals.” In addition to studying unmet maternal health needs and parent-infant sleep, Tully currently is developing innovative infant bassinets for United States postnatal units.

While breastfeeding has become the subject of intense debate in many settings, anthropological perspectives have so far played a limited role in these conversations. According to the new volume’s description, its authors seek “to broaden discussions around breastfeeding by showcasing fresh insights gleaned from an array of theoretical and methodological approaches grounded in the close study of people across the globe.”


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu