J Biosoc Sci. 1993 Oct; 25(4): 425-43.
Attenuation of nursing-related ovarian suppression and high fertility in well-nourished, intensively breast-feeding Amele women of lowland Papua New Guinea.
Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta.
Intense, sustained nursing lengthens inter-birth intervals and is causally linked with low natural fertility. However, in traditional settings, the effects of such nursing on fertility are difficult to disentangle from those of nutrition. Results from a prospective, direct observational study of reproductive function in well-nourished Amele women who nurse intensively and persistently but who also have high fertility are here presented. Endocrine measures show that ovarian activity resumes by median 11.0 months postpartum. Median duration of postpartum amenorrhoea is 11.3 months, time to next conception is 19.0 months, and the inter-birth interval is 28.0 months. Average life time fertility is 6.8. High fertility in Amele women is due both to refractoriness of reproductive function to suckling stimuli, and to maintenance of equivalent age-specific fertility rates across the reproductive life span.