Breastfeeding and Noses.

John Waters (
Mon, 19 Aug 1996 06:11:12 +0100

Acute observers of Apes and Humans may perceive a difference in
Ape and Human noses. The nostrils of Apes tend to point forwards,
while the nostrils of Humans tend to point downwards. If the Human
specie=92s Ape ancestors had noses similar to current Apes, the
question arises as to why the hominid nose evolved the way it did.

It is an established fact that Human babies are born helpless, as are
the babies of Apes. However, whereas Ape infants are only totally
helpless for a maximum of 24 hours after birth, human babies are
totally helpless for three months after birth. This is a very substantial

Within twenty-four hours of its birth, an Ape baby can crawl towards,
and climb up to, its mother=92s breast. A human baby cannot do this. It
must be lifted up to its mother=92s breast, and its head supported
during feeding.

At some stage in hominid evolution, the initial extension of the
infants period of helplessness must have demanded a degree of
maternal assistance in breastfeeding. In these circumstances, it is
easy to imagine the possibility of accidental suffocation of the
hominid baby, as its head was pushed too close to the nursing
female=92s breast. This would probably only affect a small percentage
of the hominid population, but it would create an evolutionary
demand for downward facing nostrils.

In a like manner, this situation could lead to a host of maternal
adaptations in breastfeeding physiology and behaviour, to reduce the
inherent dangers to a helpless baby.

Is this logical and reasonable?

John Waters