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My intelligent alien species doesn't have nipples at all, nor belly-buttons. I was gonna have it that their babies are very small when born (nearly marsupial-esque, but without natural pouches in the parents to carry them in until they get bigger) so the women wouldn't have need for wide hips like a human woman does for childbirth.

What could their kids eat until they grow older and start having normal foods? The species can have up to 4 babies at a time, most commonly 2-3, if that makes any difference.

// Edited my question a bit.

They eat animal meat, bones (and blood, optionally) much like a hypercarnivore (say, a big cat or spotted hyena) would on Earth. Children begin becoming more independent around 2 years of age.

From what y'all are giving me as alternatives, maybe I should just give up and give them lactating nipples...lol

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    $\begingroup$ "Or are they born able to eat the same things adults do?" Isn't this up to you? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 17, 2021 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ Hi, CA. This is a "fishing for ideas" question, and we have a substantial love-hate-relationship with them. The problem is often that you must convert your Q from an off-topic infinite list of things to an on-topic finite list of things. Please explain (a) what your aliens eat, (b) how your aliens eat, (c) how quickly babies can act independently of the parent(s). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 17, 2021 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ You may also want to read the following article and then update your question, because a little research goes a very long way on this Stack. You may also want to explain why your alien offspring don't need the nutritional and immunological benefits of lactates, which would help us understand how to get you to where you want to be. "The Strangest, Most Amazing Lactation Methods Ever Seen in Mammals" $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 17, 2021 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest "the mother". $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2021 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ @SoronelHaetir you should make that an answer, it would justify having to have 3+ pups or the species would die out. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 17, 2021 at 5:40

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Digested food from the parents

We only need to look at species that already do such things. Many birds feed their young by digesting the food themselves and then vomiting it up, giving it to their young.

It is quick, can still benefit from a lot of paternal immunity and can be directed per child. It also prepares the children for the food that will be available, including some taste and digestion.

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  • $\begingroup$ beat me to it, a lot of animals either chew their food for their young or straight up regurgitate partially digested food for them. this also helps supply gut bacteria, which are an important step in animal development and immune development. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:57
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Eat your own twin

Consider this: Instead of 4 babies coming out individually like any earth-based animal, these aliens are born in pairs with an egg attached to them.

Imagine a puny kangaroo joe attached to a same-size egg-shaped blob of protein connected through a placenta. This will allow the mother to roam free and the baby will consume the egg over time and develop.

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Sweat from the mother

Evolution happens step by step. It's not like one day a non-breastfeeding, non-nippled animal birthed a nippled, lactating-capable one.

Check this funny factoid about platypi:

Newly hatched platypuses are vulnerable, blind, and hairless, and are fed by the mother's milk. Although possessing mammary glands, the platypus lacks teats. Instead, milk is released through pores in the skin. The milk pools in grooves on her abdomen, allowing the young to lap it up.

For your species, instead of a milky secretion they could have a sweaty one. Momma has to work out, or be in a hot place in order to bring out the nutrients for her babies.

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They are vegetarians.

Ttadpole

http://www.californiaherps.com/frogs/pages/l.catesbeianus.tadpoles.html

The frog system is pretty sweet. Frogs are serious carnivores. As immature tadpoles they are vegetarians. So too your immatures. They eat vegetables and lots of them. They don't need to worry about the adults eating all the food because the adults don't eat plants.

Your immatures browse or graze. They get pretty big that way before they metamorphose into the adults.

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Pimples/blackheads.

The mother produces fatty deposits in the pores of her skin. They would have started out small in the species' evolutionary past. The young would bite at the mother's skin with their toothless jaws and squeeze out some of the blackheads, which are high in energy and other nutrients.

Over time, the blackheads would have evolved to be larger and more productive so as to be able to be the infants' sole food source. The species would evolve so that the blackheads would contain just what the growing offspring would need, and so that the offspring could properly squeeze and digest the blackheads, and not need any other source of food.

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