Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Evolution-informed maternal–infant health

Can applying an evolutionary perspective generate effective change in clinical care and/or public health policy? An evolution-informed research programme has changed practice on UK post-natal units and UK health policies on infant care over the past two decades.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Bed-sharing is strongly associated with breastfeeding continuation.
Figure 2: Breastfeeding mothers sleep with their babies in a characteristic way.


  1. Ball, H. L. & Russell, C. K. in Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy (eds Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A. & Gleason, T. ) Ch. 9 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Volpe, L. E., Ball, H. L. & McKenna, J. J. Soc. Sci. Med. 79(Sleep and Health special issue), 92–100 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Russell, C. K., Volpe, L. E. & Ball, H. L. in Evolutionary Thinking in Medicine: From Research to Policy and Practice (eds Alvergne, A., Jenkinson, C. & Faurie, C. ) 61–74 (Springer, 2016).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  4. Tully, K. P. & Ball, H. L. Matern. Child Nutr. 9, 90–98 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ball H. L. J. Reprod. Infant Psyc. 20, 207–222 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Ball, H. L. Birth 30, 181–188 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ball, H. L. et al. Acta Paediatr. 105, 628–634 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Victora, C. G. et al. The Lancet 387, 475–490 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ball, H. L. in Medicine and Evolution: Current Applications, Future Prospects (eds Elton, S. & O'Higgins, P. ) 127–152 (Taylor & Francis, 2008)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. Ball, H. L., Ward-Platt, M. P., Heslop, E., Leech, S. J. & Brown, K. A. Arch. Dis. Child. 91, 1005–1010 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Lomax, C. Telegraph & Argus (19 February 2008);

    Google Scholar 

  12. Volpe, L. E. & Ball, H. L. Arch. Dis. Child. 10, 603–604 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Filiano, J. J. & Kinney, H. C. Neonatology 65, 194–197 (1994).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Ball, H. L. & Russell, C. K. Evol. Med. Public Health 2014, 146 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ball, H. L. Hum. Nature 17, 301–318 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. McKenna, J. J., Ball, H. L. & Gettler, L. T. Yearb. Phys. Anthropol. 50, 133–161 (2007).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helen L. Ball.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ball, H. Evolution-informed maternal–infant health. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0073 (2017).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing