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For the study, scientists analyzed the bones of around 500 people who died between 1830 to 1864 in Middenbeemster, a village in the northern Netherlands.
The research team studied the chemical isotopes in the bones of children to determine whether they were breastfed or not. Children who are breastfed have different carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios than their mothers.
Their findings showed that breastfeeding was not very common: 15 out of 20 children, who had died before the age of one showed no evidence of breastfeeding. The number was also high among children who died between the age of one and six.
As for the minority, some of them showed signs that they were not breastfed for long.
The team suggested that the mothers were busy working in the farming community, milking and raising cows.
Lead author Andrea Waters-Rist noted that this is the first time such behavior has been seen among tight-knit communities, such as farmers.
“We’ve only seen this behavior in really large cities where women were working in factories and couldn’t take their babies with them,” she said.
Waters-Rist explained that the new paper mainly focused on the diets of women and children because traditional archaeology primarily targets the activities of adult males.
She added that the recent research seeks “to rectify the historical record about the lives of women and children.”