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Dr. Katherine A. Dettwyler is an anthropology professor at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. She is also a lecturer, author and breastfeeding advocate.

Dr. Dettwyler is best known for her work studying the duration of breastfeeding in humans as it relates to other mammals, primarily the nonhuman primates. According to her research, the natural age of weaning is 2½ to 7 years old as determined by weight gain, length of gestation, dental eruption, and other factors.[1] She also studies the cultural context of breasts and breastfeeding in the United States, and is currently doing research on women in the US who nurse their children longer than 3 years.

Life and career

Kathy Dettwyler was born in 1955 at McClellan AFB in California.

She earned her BS in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis, in 1977, her MA from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1981, and her Ph.D. in Anthropology also from IU Bloomington in 1985.

She taught at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1985 to 1987.

She taught at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas in the Anthropology department from 1987 until 2001, when she took early retirement from her position as a tenured Associate Professor and moved to Delaware with her husband and children.

Through the 1990s she served as a nutritional anthropologist/consultant to a number of organizations providing nutrition education in Mali, while performing field research there.

She currently teaches part-time as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware, and continues to write and speak at conferences and universities.

In 1999 Dr. Dettwyler was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, she has been cancer-free for over 8 years (2008).

She is the mother of three children and the grandmother of one.



  • Reflections on Anthropology: A Four-Field Reader (2003) ISBN 0-07-248598-1 - co-editor with Vaughn M. Bryant
  • Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives (1995) ISBN 0-202-01192-5 - co-editor with Patricia Stuart-Macadam
  • Breastfeeding: A Mother's Gift (1999) - co-editor with Patricia Stuart-Macadam
  • Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa (1994) ISBN 0-88133-748-X - 1995 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Selected academic journal articles

  • PMID 15326433 (PMID 15326433)
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  1. "A Natural Age of Weaning", by Katherine Dettwyler, brief version of chapter "A Time to Wean", in Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, pp. 39–73, ed. Patricia Stuart-Macadam and Katherine A. Dettwyler, 1995, ISBN 978-0-20201192-9

External links

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