Humans as Carry Mammals
We are mammals. Did you know that? Often we think of ourselves as human, separating us completely from animals. But really, "human" is a species of mammal. Mammal is defined as "a warm-blooded vertebrate animals of a class that is distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for the nourishment of the young and the birth of live young." Using this definition, we fall into a very large category of animals, not all that separate from one another. The understanding and acceptance of humans as mammals can completely change the outlook of how to care for and raise a child.
Recently, this concept has received a lot of attention through the introduction of what we're now calling "the fourth trimester". This current generation of new parents is starting to move back to the very old ways of child-rearing in which babies are held skin to skin, carried about in the world and left to sleep contently in bed with their mothers. And for babies, this news could not be better! In the generation of our mothers, most of spent our first days on the outside secluded in cribs in our own rooms, left to cry for hours without any actual physical contact and eating man-made powder through rubber nipples. Although we've come quite a long way in the past few generations, there still must be a better articulation of exactly what these babies expect once they've arrived. And this comes from an observation of how other mammals do it.
First there's the cache mammals like deer or rabbits that leave their young back in at the "hut" for up to 12 hours every day while they hunt for food. These babies are quite mature and so can withstand being left for that long. As a result, their mamas milk is high in fat and protein to meet that expectation. Then there's follow mammals like cows and giraffe that have their young following them everywhere they go. They are also quite mature physically, but require close range to their mothers because they cannot withstand being on their own. And, of course, these mamas milks are less substantive to meet more frequent feeding needs. Next there's nest mammals like cats and dogs that are quite immature physically. They require a great deal of womb replication in the warmth of their nests and closeness to their mothers. Mamas stay mostly with their young throughout the day or make frequent return trips for feeding and again, their milk is appropriately balanced to meet those expectations. And finally, we have carry mammals like apes and kangaroos (and humans!). These young are the most immature of all, physically and mentally. These babies cannot survive on their own for even a short period of time and require being carried and fed constantly. Carry mammals milk is evolutionarily designed to meet these needs and expectations and these babies require the greatest amount of womb replication just to survive. Evolution expects that all mamas and babies will inherently meet these needs in the interest of the continuation of the species. But are we, as humans, meeting these evolutionary expectations?
I talk a lot with my clients in our last meeting before their baby arrives about what their baby expects when they come out. And some things deserve repeating: Your human baby is a mammal, just like you. More specifically, your human baby is a carry mammal. They expect that once they are out of your womb, that you will continue to re-create their womb-like atmosphere until they are mature enough to assimilate into an earth-like atmosphere. They expect that you will keep them on your body at all times so that they may feel your warmth, hear your heartbeat, listen to your breathing and keep them safe from external stimuli. They expect that you will take them with you everywhere you go, never leaving them alone to face the world they are not yet ready for. They expect that you will feed them whenever they begin to show signs of hunger. They expect that even when they are sleeping they will enjoy the feelings of being close to you and can reach out at anytime to find you right there next to them. They expect that you will do all of these things because this is what they need to survive, to flourish, to develop, to be without stress, to be loved and most importantly, to live.
As you embark on your own journey into or through parenthood, please start to consider what your baby expects as a mammal, not a human. You don't need some fancy class or a big, long baby book to tell you what you already know. Trust your instincts; let your human mind quiet so your mammalian one can rise.