So, some chain of facebook/surfing an article popped up about how metabolism, not upright stance and pelvis size limits the length of gestation in humans. That our infants are gestated longer but come out seeming more immature compared to other primates.
So it occurred to me, if our babies are born more dependent and less “developed” despite gestating longer than other primates, what if that’s because there’s an actual advantage to a baby coming out not programmed to do much more than latch on, eat, and make people fall madly in love with it?
Other primates don’t change climates very often, as far as I know. They don’t have to adapt quickly to different biomes or environments, right? So it is to their advantage to come out as adapted as possible to the environment that they are going to live in. And other mammals don’t tend to move as much either. Birds tend to return to the same nesting grounds damn near forever, even if they migrate around the world.
But we go everywhere. And our saving grace, the thing that makes us thrive, is our adaptability. So we gestate long, mostly dreaming, are born with an incredible number of neurons connected, and we start to prune them to adapt to our environments as soon as we are born. It wouldn’t be helpful if we were born more advanced, doing more things… who needs to be running after a toddler moments after giving birth? Better have them small and portable. Some of them will spend a lot of time in a container, some of them will spend a lot of time in arms or in carrier, but they’ll be more adaptable forever if each child adapts to the environment of the parents, and the species survives because it survives everywhere.
And babies adapt to their environments starting in utero, we know that. The food the mother eats, how much of it she gets, the soundscape she moves through, the way her body moves, period… we know that uterine environment matters and it matters for generations, but each generation can have a profound shift to the next generation simply by doing things differently.
If we were more hard wired, gestated longer, gestated shorter, had more mature or less mature young, it wouldn’t all work nearly so well, as demonstrated by the fact that it doesn’t.
When a child doesn’t lose those infantile reflexes, it usually means there is some kind of malfunction in the brain. Might be a little one, might be huge, but it means something isn’t working as it should.
Premature babies, if they manage to avoid the pitfalls of subpar system functioning due to prematurity, tend to catch up to their actual ages over time, vs. their gestational ages. There are both disadvantages and advantages to a child to come out and experience the world early, so long as that world is not one which causes pruning in inopportune ways. (Kangaroo care’s successes tend to support that supposition…)
It is humanity’s flexibility and variety that helps it survive, no? Uniformity would have doomed us eons ago. Or maybe it did, and we changed because of it.