When it comes to giving birth and having babies the first step a dolphin takes towards producing offspring begins with the male dolphin courting the female dolphin.
During courtship male dolphins will often compete with one another by vocalizing their interests, giving the female dolphins gifts, fighting other males and using other methods in order to attract a female dolphin.
Some male dolphins will display acts of youthfulness and strength in order to impress the female dolphin while others will attempt to hoard off the female to prevent her from mating with other dolphins and becoming pregnant with another male.
In some cases one group of dolphins may even form a faction together and fend off competing males that are trying to mate with a female or group of females that belong to their pod.
This act of competing with one another and searching for a mating partner may continue for several months during intense mating seasons.
Interestingly unlike some marine mammals dolphins are known to mate throughout the year, not just during mating season, and some dolphins will mate for the pure pleasure of mating.
The methods that are used during mating season as well as the level of aggression the dolphins display can vary depending on the dolphins species and the pods social structure.
At the end of the mating season (when all of the dolphins finish mating with one another) the second phase of having a baby begins.
The gestation period
Just as humans go through a pregnancy period dolphins have what is commonly referred to as a gestation period.
During the gestation period the female dolphin holds her child in her uterus (womb) the same way most mammals (including humans) do.
The gestation period for a dolphin may last anywhere from 10 months to 17 months and varies largely from one species to the next.
While in the uterus the baby dolphin will receive blood and nutrients from the umbilical cord.
Once the child is born the umbilical cord is separated from the child and its mother allowing the mother to nurture and feed her child separately and giving the newborn the ability to eventually hunt for food on its own.
In terms of reproduction frequency most species of dolphin will bear a single offspring once every 1 – 6 years, although on very rare occasions a female dolphin may produce twins.
During birth most baby dolphins will be delivered tail first in order to prevent the possibility of drowning.
In order to feed the newborn dolphin the mother will provide her child with a thick paste-like milk through her nipples, which her child will suckle from until it is able to hunt on its own.
Because dolphin milk is thick it minimizes the possibility of the milk dissolving in the water.
A mother may continue to feed her child for 6 months to 2 years or until the child is able to physiologically separate from its dependency on the mother.
In some cases a dolphin may even continue to suckle after the mother stops producing milk.
The average amount of time it takes a dolphin to mature depends on the species and sex of the dolphin, however most species of dolphin will mature between the ages of 5 – 15 years regardless whether or not they are a female or male.
Once a dolphin matures it can then begin mating and bearing offspring of its own.