What Do Newborn Dolphins Eat? From Milk to Munchies

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Last updated on October 14th, 2023 at 09:34 am

What Do Newborn Dolphins Eat

Dolphins are fascinating creatures known for their intelligence and playful nature. When it comes to newborn dolphins, their diet and care are of great interest to marine enthusiasts and animal lovers alike.

In this blog post, we will explore what do newborn dolphins eat, how they are nourished, and the unique ways in which dolphin mothers care for their offspring.

What Do Newborn Dolphins Eat?

Newborn dolphins eat their mother’s milk. Dolphin milk is very nutritious and fatty, helping the calves to grow quickly.

Calves will nurse from their mothers for several years, but they will also start to eat small fish and other solid foods when they are a few months old.

To nurse, the calf positions itself under its mother’s belly and latches onto one of her two nipples. The mother then contracts her muscles to release milk into the calf’s mouth. Dolphin calves can nurse for up to 10 minutes at a time, and they may nurse several times per day.

As the calf gets older, it will start to eat more solid foods and less milk. By the time it is weaned, the calf will be able to catch and eat its own food.

Here is a timeline of what newborn dolphins eat:

Newborn to 6 months: Nurse exclusively on mother’s milk.

6 months to 2 years: Nurse on mother’s milk and start to eat small fish and other solid foods.

2 years to 3 years: Wean from mother’s milk and eat a diet of solid foods, such as fish, squid, and crustaceans.

After the calf is weaned, it will continue to stay with its mother for another year or two. During this time, the mother will teach the calf how to hunt, navigate, and find food.

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

Do Baby Dolphins Breastfeed?

Baby dolphins do breastfeed. They suckle from their mother’s milk for years. Gradually begin incorporating small fish and other solid foods into their diet when they reach a few months old.

During nursing sessions, the calf positions, itself beneath its mother’s abdomen and attaches to one of her two nipples.

The mother then contracts her muscles to release milk into the calf’s mouth. Dolphin babies have the opportunity to nurse for 10 minutes during each session. They may engage in multiple nursing sessions throughout the day.

The milk produced by dolphins is rich, in nutrients and fats which aids in the growth of their calves. It also contains levels of protein and calcium both crucial for the development of bones and muscles in the calf.

Nursing plays a role in establishing a bond between dolphin mothers and their offspring. It not provides nourishment for the calfs growth and development but also strengthens the emotional connection between them.

How Do Dolphins Milk Their Babies?

Since dolphins lack hands like humans do, they have a method to nurse their babies. They position themselves beneath their mother’s belly. Latch onto one of her two nipples. The mother then contracts her muscles to release milk into the calf’s mouth.

Nursing sessions for dolphin calves typically last up to 10 minutes at a time with nursing occurrences throughout the day.

Dolphin milk has a creamy consistency serving as a safeguard against dilution, by seawater during nursing sessions.

Dolphin babies also possess a tongue that they can fold into a straw shape allowing them to consume milk underwater.

How Do Dolphins Take Care Of Their Babies?

How Do Dolphins Take Care Of Their Babies?

Dolphins, like many other mammals, exhibit remarkable maternal care for their babies, known as calves. Here are several ways dolphins take care of their offspring:

Nursing: As mentioned earlier, mother dolphins nurse their calves with nutrient-rich milk, providing essential nutrients for their growth and development. This early nourishment is crucial for the calf’s health.

Protection: Mother dolphins are highly protective of their calves. They keep them close, often swimming side by side or above them to ensure their safety. Calves stay close to their mothers, benefiting from her guidance and protection against predators.

Teaching: Mother dolphins teach their calves vital survival skills, including hunting techniques and social behaviors. Calves learn by observing their mothers and other members of the pod, mimicking their actions and gradually acquiring necessary skills.

Social Bonding: Calves form strong social bonds not only with their mothers but also with other members of the pod. These social interactions are essential for their emotional development and learning appropriate social behaviors within the dolphin community.

Communication: Dolphins are highly communicative animals. Mothers and calves communicate through a variety of vocalizations, body language, and echolocation.

This communication helps the calf learn to navigate their environment, understand social cues, and coordinate with other pod members.

Rest: Like all young animals, dolphin calves need plenty of rest. Mother dolphins assist their calves in reaching the surface to breathe, allowing them to rest while still being able to access air easily.

Play: Play is an essential part of a young dolphin’s life. Through play, calves develop their physical and cognitive skills, practice hunting techniques, and bond with other members of the pod.

Mothers often engage in playful activities with their calves, fostering a sense of joy and learning.

How Long Do Baby Dolphins Stay With Their Mother?

Baby dolphins stay with their mothers for several years, typically between three to six years, depending on the species and individuals.

During this time, the mother dolphin teaches the calf important life skills, including how to breathe, socialize, hunt, and have fun. The calf is fully dependent on its mother for nourishment and protection during the first few months of life, surviving exclusively on its mother’s milk.

Nursing sessions take only five to ten seconds total, and calves nurse multiple times during the day.

There is a benefit of dolphin’s milk compared to human and cow’s milk. It is plenty milk containing fatty substance lead quicker growth of baby dolphin.

After a few months baby dolphins can have small fish by the guidance of mother. After certain years, they acquire skill to catch fish and reduce drinking mother’s milk.

See Also: Do Boy Dolphins Have Nipples? Unraveling the Riddle

Do Dolphins Need Milk?

Yes, dolphins need milk, especially baby dolphins. Newborn dolphins survive exclusively on their mother’s milk for the first few months of life, typically between six months to two years dеpending on the speciеs and individuals.

Dolphin milk is known to be nourishing and high, in fat compared to both human milk and cows milk. As a result, dolphin calves experience growth.

Throughout the day these young dolphins nurse times with each nursing session lasting five to ten seconds.

Under the guidance of their mothers’ young dolphins also start incorporating fish into their diet when they’re just a few months old.

Over the course of years, they gradually learn to catch fish on their own and become less reliant, on their mother’s milk.

The milk of whalеs and dolphins variеs considerably in fat concеntration, but it is much highеr than that of human brеast milk.

5 Fun Facts About Baby Dolphins

Here are 5 fun facts about baby dolphins:

1. Baby dolphins are born tail-first. This is to prevent them from drowning in the womb or during birth.

2. Baby dolphins can swim from birth. This is because their lungs are fully developed at birth.

3. Baby dolphins nurse from their mothers for several years. Dolphin milk is very nutritious and helps the calves to grow quickly.

4. Baby dolphins are very playful. They love to play with their mothers and other members of the pod.

5. Baby dolphins have a strong bond with their mothers. The mother dolphin will stay close to her calf at all times and protect it from predators.

See Also: Do Dolphins Attack Baby Dolphins? Infanticide Among Dolphins

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Baby Dolphins Survive Without Their Mother’s Milk?

While newborn dolphins rely on their mother’s milk, they gradually transition to solid food as they grow older. However, maternal milk is crucial for their initial survival and development.

Do All Dolphin Species Nurse Their Young?

Yes, all dolphin species nurse their young. However, the duration of nursing and the specific behaviors associated with it can vary between species.

How Often Do Baby Dolphins Nurse?

Baby dolphins nurse frequently, often several times an hour, to ensure they receive enough nutrients for their rapid growth and high energy levels.

Are There Any Dangers To Baby Dolphins While Nursing?

While nursing, baby dolphins are vulnerable to predators, such as sharks and orcas. Mothers are highly protective during this time, using their echolocation abilities to detect potential threats and keep their calves safe.


Newborn dolphins, like many other mammals, rely on their mother’s milk for essential nutrients and energy.

The strong maternal bond, coupled with the nurturing nature of dolphin mothers, ensures the survival and well-being of their calves.

As we continue to study these magnificent marine creatures, our understanding of their behaviors and interactions deepens, allowing us to appreciate the intricacies of their lives in the vast ocean.

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