Have you observed a new mammal? A baby mammal if you will? They are marked by their diminutive size and greater or lesser degrees of helplessness. They nurse, the need protection, they are bad at keeping themselves warm so need to be close to a bigger mammal, often they are poor of sight, and they are in almost everyway not capable of caring for themselves in the manner that the fully mature of their species can and in normal circumstances do. Breaking news folks: humans are mammals.
The latest research has told us that the best way to keep the tiny, newborn human mammal safe is to isolate it while it is sleeping and place it belly-up so that it’s most tender parts are easily accessible to predators. That’s what they have told us, sort of. But here’s the thing, the safety of this approach has a lot of downsides and the upsides are shown in correlational studies, not causal studies. The things we are trying to prevent by asking tiny mammals to have exactly zero mammalian instinct and to just trust us it’s for their own good are totally good things to prevent. Except we don’t know if it actually helps, a lot of other things changed at about the same time and maybe that is what helps – we don’t know. We guess because well maybe, there seems to be a statistical link, but there is a lot we don’t know.
Here is something we do know: new methods required for caring your tiny mammal may also result in your tiny mammal having a misshapen head that requires corrective devices. Is the hubris of man still so great that we think the miracle of human evolution missed on how to sleep as an infant so dramatically that we have to fix cranial development as a result? Really? Babies heads form beautifully if they sleep the way they are instinctually programmed to sleep: safe with their belly protected, nestled up against the breast of their warm protector. Put a baby to sleep on their back and now you have a new developmental concern in the flattening of the head that may require many months of helmet wearing and reconstruction. Does anyone else think we have missed something logical in the correlational analysis here?
Also, try to put a tired infant to sleep on their back, how often do they startle awake? That’s because they don’t feel safe. The solution is to wrap them super tight so they feel warm and protected – that’s in lieu of just holding them because someone, somewhere decided that holding babies when they sleep is harmful. Better for them to be put down alone. I remember reading a sociological study about orphans who were never held, were wrapped tightly and were left in cribs by themselves – they turned out a dramatically higher number of psychologically disturbed individuals than the general population.
The point of all of this rant is this: please pick up your baby, your baby is crying and it is a tiny mammal that is frightened, alone and needs comfort. Please person two rows in front of me on the plane whose child has been screeching for the last hour, safely strapped in its car-seat, please throw caution to the wind and pick up your screeching child and comfort it. Pacifiers have also fallen out of fashion so it would seem and your attempts to reason with the screeching infant as you have been for the last hour are not working. Your baby mammal does not yet understand the language of reason you are speaking and the screeches are a signal that it needs your help. Please pick up your fucking child and comfort it – that is what a screeching child wants: comfort in the form of physical contact, food, or cleaning. None of this is hard to figure out – go with your instinct – be a mammal, care for your young and when a study says it’s safer really not to act like a mammal, remember that not only are you a mammal but you also have the ability to reason.