Babies Are Social

One of the first things that a baby cow or a baby giraffe does after it’s born is stand up. Stand up to nurse on its mama. Stand up in case they need to move from danger. Stand up in case mom and her milk moves so that the baby can move closer to the milk and to safety.

One of the first things that a human baby learns to do (after learning to eat and sleep) is smile. Humans are helpless at birth compared to other animals. Smiling at a predator won’t help a baby, so why learn to smile so soon after birth?


I try to imagine what it’s like to be a baby. Human babies would probably stay inside mom longer than nine months if they could, but having a large head puts a limit on gestation time. Staying inside mom much longer would mean that baby’s head would grow too large to easily fit through mom’s narrow pelvis adapted to bipedal walking biomechanics. This balance of opposite needs for mom and baby is referred to as the obstetrical dilemma). What nature has set up is a compromise between baby head size versus mom pelvis size which dictates when babies must be born. Yet, with emphasis placed on a baby’s brain development, motor functions are not yet developed to any stage that would enable self-propelled locomotion, standing, evading predators or moving towards milk.


So what to do if you are a big-brained, weak-limbed, relatively infantile baby to endear yourself to the people who will take care of you, so they want to take care of you? Smile. Do small things to mimic the big people. Show that you’re one of them. Babies are social. Smiling is a survival mechanism in human babies. Attachment to caregivers is what helps babies survive. In smiling, babies find the social-sufficiency that they need: make yourself irresistible to a big person to give yourself time to develop and grow, time to stand up.


Note: two of the photos are of Sunboy and two are of Flowergirl. Can you guess which photos belong to which baby? This is the first time I directly compared their baby photos and even I was amazed at the resemblance!

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4 thoughts on “Babies Are Social

  1. I think the 1st and 3rd are the same (Sunboy?) – based on ears and hair. And maybe the smile of 2nd and 4th (Flowergirl?) look similar.

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