Did you know that the composition of a mammal's milk impacts the way each species cares for its babies?
Researchers have divided mammals into four categories according to how they care for their babies. The composition of a mammal's breastmilk and the maturity of their babies at birth correlate with these categories. The following appears in Breastfeeding Made Simple by Mohrbacher and Kendall-Tackett:
Cache Animals: "These include the deer and rabbit. Cache mammals are mature at birth. Their mothers hide their young in a safe place and return to them every 12 hours. Consistent with this behavior, the milk of cache animals is high in protein and fat. It sustains the young animals for a long time, because babies are fed infrequently."
Follow Mammals: "The giraffe and cow are follow mammals and like others of this group, are also mature at birth and can follow their mothers wherever they go. Since the baby can be near the mother throughout the day and feed often, the milk of the follow mammal is lower in protein and fat than that of a cache mammal."
Nest Animals: "These include the dog and cat. Nest mammals are less mature than cache or follow mammals at birth. They need the nest for warmth and remain with the other young from the litter. The mother returns to feed her young several times a day. The milk of nest mammals has less protein and fat than cache mammals. But it has more than follow mammals who feed more frequently."
Carry Mammals: "This group include the apes and marsupials, such as the kangaroo. The carry mammals are the most immature at birth, need the warmth of the mother’s body and are carried constantly. Their milk has low levels of fat and protein, and they are fed often around the clock."
Can a human newborn be left alone for hours on end? Can a human newborn follow behind us as we live our day-to-day? Are human babies born in litters?
It's obvious after looking at the criteria for these categories that human babies are akin to apes. Our babies need to be held close to their mothers and fed frequently 24 hours a day. In many ways, human babies continue to gestate outside the womb. This has perpetuated the concept of the "fourth trimester": a time to slow down and bond with your baby on their terms instead of rushing to acclimate them to a world they are too immature to understand.
In our modern world, there are a thousand different contraptions to stick our babies in: cribs, bouncers, swings, exersaucers, etc. Why is our society obsessed with trying to nest babies that obviously need to be carried? Once we absorb this concept solely from the perspective of breastfeeding, it cracks open a can of worms that encompasses nearly all aspects of mothering: it's simply the biological norm for human babies to feed frequently, wake frequently, cosleep/bed share, and need to be held. And wow, yes, it is just that simple.
Here are some related resources for inquiring minds: Cosleeping As a Biological Imperative: http://neuroanthropology.net/…/cosleeping-and-biological-i…/ Basic info on the 4th trimester: http://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/the-fourth-trimester-aka-w…/ Benefits of Babywearing: http://babywearinginternational.org/…/benefits-of-babywear…/ Natural Motor Development, Why Baby Contraptions Are Unnecessary: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2009/09/set-me-free/