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"Vuole stare sempre in braccio!": il punto di vista etologico

"He always wants to be held!": the ethological point of view

"He always wants to be held!": the ethological point of view

Thousands and thousands of years
Wouldn't be enough
To say
The tiny second of eternity
In which you you embraced
In which I embraced you.

(Jacques Prévert) 

“He always cries, he wants to be alone in my arms!”
“He only sleeps in my arms!”
“As soon as I take him he calms down. ”

I defy any mother who hasn't exclaimed or thought about it at least once (but more likely a million times!) during the first few months after giving birth. He is "good" in his arms but our arms are heavy, our personal spaces completely invaded, unable to do anything but perpetually "carry" this sweet little baby who, as soon as he is placed in the cradle, begins to scream like a wounded eagle! Adding to the load are also relatives-friends-acquaintances who punctually classify this frequent request from the baby as a "vice". But how much is it a matter of vice and how much of a physiological need? If we look at this behavior from an ethological point of view, the ideas become clearer…and not a little!

In the past, mammalian puppies were divided into two categories: there were nestlings, such as dogs and cats, which are born highly immature after a very short gestation and are kept in a "nest" for long periods while their parents forage for food; and there were the nidifughi, like horses and sheep, which instead have a long gestation and at birth are extremely mature, able to walk after just a few hours. It is as if they had spent the nestling stage in utero.

In 1970 the zoologist biologist Bernhard Hassenstein, inspired by the observation of some mammals such as monkeys, kangaroos and koalas, which did not fit perfectly into the two definitions, introduced a third category: the ported ! These cubs had at the same time characteristics of nidifugous (such as resemblance to the parents) and nestlings (e.g. immaturity in development), but what distinguished them was the fact that their nest was the mother , in fact they spent the period of exogestation on it and were transported by it.

According to Hassenstein's thesis, the human cub also falls into the category of the affected, having various characteristics in common with them. However, in the course of evolution and especially when the human being became sedentary, he would have changed from an active bear to a a passive bear , where if before it was the puppy that clung to the mother's fur, now it was she who actively supported him.

It is clear that the human puppy is brought through the study of various characteristics such as the primordial reflexes including the grasping reflex (grasping) where the puppy is born with closed fists and tends to cling both with the hands and with the feet, some anatomical characteristics such as the orientation of the hips or the natural kyphosis of the vertebral column and the characteristics of neurological development. Note also the spread-seated position, typical of newborns.

However, let us focus on some behavioral characteristics. For the newborn carried constant contact with the mother represents the insurance of its survival . The mother is the one who feeds it, warms it, contains it. Contact and movement are perceived as suitable and appropriate conditions while the absence of it and the presence of silence, immobility and the lack of contact are perceived as dangerous situations. Furthermore, the newborn has no awareness of the I and the you and recognizes the mother as part of himself. He experiences the condition of the mother's absence and the loss of contact with anguish and instead finds comfort in sucking, in the bodily contact that he recognizes as "internal" because it was already experienced from the first moments of life and also from the uterine environment.

In this new perspective we give meaning to the behavior of our small mammals: not the search for contact as a vice but as a physiological and right condition. Crying at the lack of contact not as a "whim" but as a normal and healthy reaction! We can now welcome our puppies with the awareness that it is precisely there that they belong and it is in that embrace that, finding their mother, they find themselves.

It goes without saying that babywearing can be a very useful tool for achieving contact and containment goals.

Nastasia Morin
Babywearing School consultant

Bibliographic references: "Bringing the Little Ones" by Esther Weber

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