Do Dolphins Nurse Their Young? How Long Do Dolphins Nurse?

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Do Dolphins Nurse Their Young

Dolphins are among the most fascinating marine animals, known for their intelligence and social behaviors. Since dolphins give live birth like mammals do, this begs the question: Do dolphins nurse their young?

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of dolphin parenting and uncover details regarding these marine mammals’ care for their young ones.

Do Dolphins Nurse Their Young?

Yes, dolphins do give milk to their young as part of a natural way for nutrition and sustenance. Just as other mammals do so as well.

Female dolphins produce milk through mammary glands located within their mammary tissue and then nurse their calves using teats on their mouths.

Nursing provides young dolphins with essential nutrition and antibodies necessary for healthy development and growth.

Nursing may last between three months and several months before their young begin transitioning onto solid food diets.

Do Dolphins Nurse Their Young With Milk?

Yes, dolphins do nurse their young with milk just like other mammals do. Mammary glands in female dolphins produce milk which their calves suckle from nipples during nursing sessions.

Nursing plays an essential part in young dolphins’ growth and development, providing essential vitamins, proteins, and fats essential to their wellbeing.

Mother dolphin milk contains antibodies which aid in strengthening their young dolphin’s immune systems against diseases and sickness, providing protection from diseases.

Nursing typically continues for several months until young dolphins transition to eating solid food only diet.

How Do Dolphins Give Milk To Their Babies?
Altantic Bottlenose Dolphin and her calf swimming in sunlit water

How Do Dolphins Give Milk To Their Babies?

Dolphin mothers provide milk to their young in much the same manner as humans; their mammary glands are situated underneath their bodies near their genital slits.

Normal operation sees their mother’s nipples lying flat against her body; when stimulated by swimming belly-up under their mother and nuzzling at them, milk comes pouring out, filling their mouth.

Dolphin milk is extremely viscous, helping keep it inside their calves’ mouth while nursing underwater. These mammals also possess special muscles on their tongue that provide seal protection around their nipple to block seawater intrusion and avoid possible infection from seawater sources.

Dolphin mothers can regulate the flow of milk from their nipples, helping their calves avoid choking on it and providing protection from predators while they feed.

Furthermore, dolphin mothers can nurse their young while swimming allowing them to remain close by protecting them during feeding times while remaining with them as swimmers themselves.

Dolphin calves nurse several times each day for 5-10 seconds at each nursing session, beginning to consume solid foods at 6 months old but continuing nursing until weaned by their mothers between 2-3 years of age.

See Also: Do Dolphins Have Breast Milk? A Closer Look

How Long Do Dolphins Nurse?

Dolphin calves typically nurse for 2-3 years before becoming independent; some calves, however, have been known to nurse as long as 10 years! Nursing times will depend upon various factors including individual calf needs, maternal health and the availability of food sources.

Dolphin calves typically require longer nursing times than whale calves due to their slower development rate and rich and fatty dolphin milk that helps the calves to both develop quickly while staying warm in the water.

Dolphin mothers typically wean their calves before giving birth again as it would be difficult for one mother dolphin to simultaneously care for two calves at once.

Do Dolphins Nurse Their Young
A horizontal image of two dolphins – mother and child.

Do Newborn Dolphins Nurse?

Yes, newborn dolphins do nurse. After birth, a mother dolphin produces milk to nourish its offspring with all the vital vitamins and nutrients essential for its proper growth and development.

Nursing newborn dolphins is essential to their wellbeing as it supplies essential proteins, fats and antibodies needed for strengthening their immune systems.

Newborn dolphins typically begin nursing shortly after they’re born and continue for some time before beginning solid food diets.

Their mother provides all of their nourishment through her milk during this phase, helping ensure the healthy development of each young dolphin.

See Also: What Do Newborn Dolphins Eat? From Milk to Munchies

Do Orcas Nurse Their Young?

Yes, orcas (commonly referred to as killer whales) do nurse their young. Female orcas possess mammary glands with nipplelike structures for breastfeed their calves by providing access to milk suckleing.

Nursing plays an essential part in orca calves’ growth and development, providing essential nutrients and antibodies found only in their mother’s milk.

Do Dolphins Take Care Of Young?

Yes, dolphins provide exceptional care to their offspring. Dolphin mothers tend to stay close by their calves at all times.

Furthermore, dolphin mothers teach their calves everything necessary for survival such as how to swim, hunt and communicate effectively.

Dolphin mothers do more than nurse their young, however. To protect and warm them as much as possible they also carry them along in their slipstream, or the hydrodynamic wake created as they swim, which allows the calves to swim without exerting too much energy during swimming.

Do Dolphins Have Nipples?

Yes, dolphins resemble other mammals by having nipples – specifically female dolphins with mammary glands equipped with nipple-bearing mammary glands to nurse their young.

At nursing time, mother dolphins allow their young ones to drink from her nipples – providing essential nutrition for its development and growth. Nips are characteristic features of all mammals including dolphins.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do Dolphins Only Nurse Underwater?

Dolphins have evolved to adapt efficiently in aquatic environments for nursing their young. This enables them to care for them efficiently.

Can Dolphin Mothers Nurse Multiple Calves At Once?

No. Dolphin mothers typically devote all their attention and care to one individual calf at a time. They devote all their energy and focus towards its wellbeing and development.

How Long Do Dolphin Calves Continue To Stay With Their Mothers After Weaning?

Dolphin calve’s often remain with their mothers for several years after weaning to learn key life and social behaviors within the pod environment. During this period of learning essential life and social behavior skills.


Dolphin nursing illustrates the unique bond between mother and calf found within marine ecosystems.

By providing milk, care, and guidance for their young’s development and survival, dolphins ensure their own long-term survival and success.

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