Breastfeeding in Late Medieval to Early Modern Iin Hamina, Finland, According to δ13C and δ15N Analyses of Archaeological Dentin

Tiina Väre, Titta Kallio-Seppä, Sanna Lipkin and Mikko Finnilä


This article explores infant feeding customs among the population of Iin Hamina, Ostrobothnia. The carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope ratios are measured in the collagen of dentin segments of permanent first molars (M1) of individuals (n = 6) excavated from a local, discontinued churchyard dating from late medieval times to early modernity. A little later, in the mid-18th century, high infant mortality in regions such as the province of Ostrobothnia (currently part of Finland) would alarm Swedish officials. The assumption was that local, common women refused to breastfeed even the smallest babies. While the churchyard in Iin Hamina had not been used for over a century at this time, we hypothesize that breastfeeding practices were based on traditions that were slow to change. Nevertheless, the results show variation in the length of breastfeeding periods even within this very limited sample, but they do not generally imply the disregarding of breastfeeding of infants.

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