Re: Breastfeeding and Noses.

John Waters (
23 Aug 1996 06:40:20 GMT

A R Millard <> wrote in article
> John Waters ( wrote:
> : 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.
> It is still possible to press the baby to close to the breast and block
> it's nostrils, but babies have a reflex by which they stop suckling and
> breath through their mouth when this happens. I don't see any pressure
> for downward facing nostrils.
> Andrew
> Dr. Andrew Millard
> Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, Tel: +44 191 374 4757
> South Road, Durham. DH1 3LE. United Kingdom. Fax: +44 191 374 3619
Thank you for the information Andrew. This begs the question as to whether
this reflex action also applies to Apes. If not, could both the reflex
action and the downward facing nostrils have evolved to meet the same basic
requirement. Do you think the long nipple of the Apes would have hindered
the use of this reflex?

John Waters