Department of Anthropology Associate Professor Dr. Masako Fujita, along with her student Amulya Vankayalapati of Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University and her veterinary epidemiologist collaborator George Wamwere-Njoroge of the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, has published an article in American Journal of Human Biology. The article is titled “Effects of household composition on infant feeding and mother–infant health in northern Kenya.” The article explores how having alloparents in the house can influence mother-infant health among formerly semi-nomadic Ariaal cattle/camel herders who have settled to combine pastoralism with dryland agriculture for their livelihoods. The study shows that household-level social and food ecologies have important implications for mother-infant outcomes in these remote arid terrains with high burdens of nutritional and infectious disease stress.
Households with alloparents, individuals other than the mother who care for an infant, can shift members’ roles and affect mother–infant health.
To investigate how household composition relates to infant feeding and infectious disease risk in mother–infant dyads, the team utilized data from breastfeeding dyads (n 208) surveyed during a prolonged drought and food scarcity in northern Kenya.
Households were classified by the presence/absence of potential alloparents, distinguishing non-siblings and siblings of the infant. Regression models for breastfeeding frequency, complementary feeding status, and recent infections (n 83) evaluated these outcomes’ associations with household type while accounting for food insecurity, adjusted for infant age, infant sex, and maternal age.
Household type was unassociated with breastfeeding frequency, but the presence of non-sibling alloparents interacted with food insecurity, predicting increasing breastfeeding frequency as food insecurity intensified among dyads living with non-sibling alloparents. Households with non-sibling alloparents were also inversely associated with complementary feeding but had no association with infection. Households with siblings were inversely associated with (protective against) infant and maternal infection.
Further research is needed to understand the interactive influence of household social and food ecologies on mother–infant diet and health under diverse cultural rules and norms for alloparenting.
Read the full article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajhb.23993