The Aymara People of the Andes

received_349168949031248-01.jpegThe Aymara people are Native American (First Nations) culture living in the Andes mountains around the borders of where present-day Peru, Chile, and Bolivia meet. The Aymara are considered one of the oldest extant ethnic groups of the High Andes, predating the Inca civilization by thousands of years. The ancestors of today’s Aymara built the highest urban center in the world, Tiwanaku, reaching it’s highest populations between 500-1000 c.e.(the header image from this post are the “stone peoples” of Tiwanaku). However, during the height of Inca power and then during the colonial era, the Aymara were forcibly resettled to their present area. Continue reading

Misinformation and Scientific Literacy

I want to talk a bit about scientific literacy, specifically the importance of citing sources and expecting claims to have supporting evidence. This morning I saw a post shared by a couple birth groups that made the claim that African tribes invented c-sections “hundreds of years before Europeans” (as though it’s a competition and if it is, it looks like the Chinese won). The post extrapolated wildly and didn’t cite sources. Of course, this kind of thing happens every day on social media but it was the response in the comments that concerns me the most.

When commenters asked for sources the responses were “do your own research”, “you’re so rude and so lazy“, “it’s not her job to educate you” and similar. (The first and third phrases are your signs to distance yourself from someone asap; the second one, well, it might be true but not for asking for sources.) Continue reading

Why Are Newborn Humans Useless? |Squished Pt3|

On a recent episode of the Dear Hank and John podcast (in which two brothers give “dubious advice”, I recommend it!) a listener sent in a question about why human infants were so useless. And even though both of them have children of their own, they didn’t really know what the answer was so they gave it their best shot: (paraphrasing here) because of bipedalism, women’s hips are too narrow and the baby needs to come out prematurely otherwise they won’t fit.

If you’ve read the earlier parts in this series debunking the Obstetrical Dilemma, you can imagine my epic head shaking and eye-rolling. I had already had this post waiting in the wings but I decided to rework the intro and title when I realized that lay people who have never heard the phrase “obstetrical dilemma” will forward it without even being aware of it. So, why are newborn humans useless?

Continue reading

Cold Climates: The Inuit Amauti

Well, I was enjoying the lovely fall colors, the warm days and crisp nights– and then that jerk Winter crept up and put an ice cube down my shirt. So, while I huddle here, fingers frozen, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how traditional artic cultures deal with infant carrying in the freezing temperatures. There seem to be two main approaches: a soft carrier that shares body heat between child and caregiver which we’ll cover in this post; and a hard carrier that creates a micro-climate for the baby that I will cover in a future post. Continue reading

Body Hair

Apes, including humans, are physiologically riders, meaning that they carry their babies with them as opposed to leaving them in nests or dens because their breast milk composition is not suited to leaving their infants alone for long periods of time (Ross, 2001). But unlike humans, apes don’t need a tool to carry their infants in part because they have body hair for their infants to cling to but it’s more complicated than simply having body hair and a baby that can grasp it. Hair strength, density, infant weight, carrying position, adult posture, and even humidity play a part in successful infant carrying without tool use. Continue reading

The Myth of Childbearing Hips | Squished Pt 2 |

The phrase “childbearing hips”, besides being extremely cringey in any context, is a misnomer. It’s a byproduct of the kind of thinking that went into the Obstetrical Dilemma: in order to give birth women traded in bipedal efficiency for wider hips. It’s a hypothesis that was and is widely assumed to be true. But you know what they say about making assumptions? … As it turns out, pelvic width has nothing to do with bipedal efficiency, nor is it a constraint for fetal head growth or childbirth. Continue reading