What does it mean to be a loving parent? Dolphins seem to have motherhood figured out! Psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang, author of The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids-Without Turning into a Tiger, sure seems to be convinced that dolphins offer the best model for exceptional parenting, whether you’re a mom or a dad!
Dolphins are socially skilled, intelligent, agile, joyful, and playful animals that share many emotional similarities with humans. Like humans babies, dolphin calves are not born with the skills to fend for themselves. Dolphin mothers become teachers as soon as their baby emerges, the first lesson being how to breathe. Other important lessons include, learning to have fun, check out this dolphin mom her teach calves how to play with their food! How cool is that?! View the pictures below to see how every dolphin begins her/his exciting journey of life: with love from mom. What can we learn as parents from these amazing beings?
1. There’s No Arguing With Maternal Instinct
Can you believe this mother and calf are bound by love, rather than by blood? The pair aren’t even the same species! The mother, a bottlenose dolphin named Kiwi by researchers, lost her own calf in 2009 after being stranded on a muddy bank in the Kerikeri Inlet in New Zealand.Perhaps Kiwi was still missing her own baby when she found Pee-Wee, an abandoned common dolphin calf, whom Kiwi has been nursing since January of 2014.
Dolphin expert Jo Halliday suspects bottlenose dolphins may have the ability to lactate on demand, since Kiwi was not known to have given birth recently prior to nursing Pee-Wee. Dolphin experts say it is extremely rare for dolphins to socialize with different species, but clearly Kiwi’s maternal instinct trumps common practice. Read more on the story in Green Monster Madison Montgomery’s post.
2. Patience is Key
If you have had the experience of being a mother, you’ll recognize the expressions of happiness and pride in this mother’s face, as she teaches their brand new babies how to swim. Every cetacean mom has different parenting techniques. Some are extremely protective of their young ones (can you relate?), while others are a bit more relaxed. Teaching a newborn human to walk takes a tremendous amount of patience, so just think of what it is like doing that underwater?! Of course, dolphin calves are born knowing how to swim, but they’re a bit wobbly at first.
There are many predators in the oceans and calves are very vulnerable. It isn’t unusual for a new dolphin mother to get little or no sleep for the first two months after their baby’s birth, since it is important to keep a strict eye on their newborn (and you thought you had bags under your eyes!).
Dolphin calves attempt to swim synchronously with their mothers. Just like human babies (with exceptions), dolphin and whale calves learn how to swim, eat, breathe, and survive from their moms. Many research articles have provided evidence to teaching habits similar to human beings. Though dolphin calves nurse from their mothers for six months to two years, juveniles will stay with their moms until they mature (the teenage phase) at between five and ten years old!
3. It Takes a Village!
Being a new mom sure can be rough. That’s why the pod is there to help out when things get tough! Most often, dolphins will only give birth to one calf, though twins have been born in rare occurrences. New mothers often have an assistant “auntie” to help in delivering the calf and raising her/him. Dolphins are excellent caretakers and will typically lend a fin when needed. When females reach the age of 40, they stop ovulating at which point they typically become grandmothers.
So, What Does it Take to be a Dolphin Parent?
Dolphins enjoy having fun with their calf. They express clear communication to effectively teach their young, so that their calf can grow up to be happy and successful. They spend EVERY moment with their calf for years and don’t send them off to dolphin daycare. They have the support of others in the pod to assist them through the parenting process. Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a dolphin pod? Okay, that doesn’t mean jumping in the ocean to encroach on these animals’ habitat… Perhaps we could instead integrate their parenting skills into our own lives?
Think of your own family as you realize why you should care about these cetacean families. No cetacean should be confined to concrete walls. Be sure to read how to help them all be as free as you and me! Everyone can make a difference.
Lead image source: NOAA