Baby guinea pigs must nurse within 24 hours after birth. Nursing is essential for baby guinea pigs because it controls their growth and development. Like most mammals, baby guinea pigs rely on their mother for nutrients in the first three weeks of their life.
Some mother guinea pigs can appear unattentive at first. For the first twenty-four hours, the mother guinea pig may not nurse or tend to her babies. This unattentive behavior may extend for three days as she recovers from birth.
Babies may also struggle to latch for the first few hours or days. Watch their behavior closely to see whether they are successfully nursing.
Baby Guinea Pigs Should Nurse Within 24 Hours
Within twenty-four hours of birth, the baby guinea pig will begin nursing. However, it can take the mother longer than twenty-four hours to nurse if she is exhausted from giving birth. This is why some guinea pig mothers don’t start nursing their babies until they are 24 hours old.
Nursing initiates mental and physical growth, which must begin within 24 hours for the small animal. Any delay in feeding may lead to growth delays or immaturity.
What About Whole Foods?
When a guinea pig is three to five days old, it may start eating whole food. These whole foods include lettuce, carrots, kale, corn, tomatoes, and much more. However, they will continue nursing until at least three weeks old.
Nursing provides additional nutrients that they do not receive from the fruits and veggies they forage in the wild. At around four weeks old, they will leave their mother’s nest or become a part of the guinea pig clan.
Can Guinea Pigs Survive Without Nursing?
Wild guinea pigs need to nurse for at least five days. They cannot survive without nursing unless they have immediate intervention by humans. If you plan to raise a baby guinea pig, you must provide them with a strict diet full of nutrients. This will make up for the significant nutrients lost because of the lack of nursing.
Motherly behavior is critical for the first three weeks of a baby guinea pig’s life since they depend on their mothers for nutrients, teaching, and protection.
Unfortunately, some mothers will abandon their babies. If you have an abandoned baby under three weeks old, the baby guinea pig may require human intervention. A guinea pig may fend for itself if they are past three weeks old.
Guinea Pigs Can Survive With Intervention
If humans intervene at the right time, an abandoned guinea pig can survive without nursing. Guinea pigs must be fed properly or they may die. There are plenty of milk substitutes, such as commercial milk replacement, available at most pet stores.
It is also possible to administer condensed milk to your pet guinea pig through a dropper. Feeding your guinea pig through a syringe is the best way to emulate how the baby guinea pig naturally nurses.
At this time, you should also introduce whole foods like fruits and veggies. Be cautious of how large the pieces are.
Guinea Pigs Are Naturally Self-Sufficient
Aside from nursing several times throughout the day, baby guinea pigs are quite self-sufficient. They learn how to hunt from their mothers at three days and then eat whole foods around five days.
Remember, it’s possible a mother may neglect the pups. If you notice a mother ignoring her litter, you may intervene and offer support. However, note that many mothers will eventually begin caring for their young after twenty-four hours. They form a relationship with most of their young.
How Does Nursing Benefit Baby Guinea Pigs?
Vitamins and Minerals
In the first few weeks of life, nursing is the baby guinea pig’s way of getting vitamins and nutrients. Nursing helps the guinea pig mature properly, delivers healthy bacteria, and establishes a social hierarchy in the clan.
As a newborn guinea pig, the mother must evenly distribute her milk among the group. However, this does not always happen. Baby guinea pigs compete for milk, and some may struggle to latch on. Those who consume the most milk grow the largest and are more likely to become dominant.
Nursing Helps Guinea Pigs Mature
Nursing helps the guinea pig adequately mature because it provides the baby with the necessary nutrients. The mother guinea pig treats her babies like adults by three weeks old. Without constant nursing, these guinea pigs will struggle to transition to adulthood.
Although there are milk substitutes like condensed milk, nothing has the same nutritional value as their mother’s milk.
During the first few weeks of caring for an abandoned guinea pig baby, you must give them enough condensed milk as they need.
Guinea Pigs Develop Good Bacteria
In addition to providing the small guinea pigs with necessary nutrients, the young guinea pigs must develop good bacteria through nursing from their mothers.
The baby guinea pig eats their mother’s soft stool to develop good bacteria. While this is not part of the nursing process, it is a major part of the feeding process. If their mother does not introduce this bacteria into their diet through their soft stool, this healthy bacteria will need to be introduced in another way to the baby guinea pig.
Guinea Pigs Establish Social Hierarchy Through Nursing
Baby guinea pigs establish a strict social hierarchy while nursing. Guinea pigs with difficulty latching do not get enough milk and consistently fail to earn a space are more likely to become submissive. In contrast, the guinea pig babies who consistently win space and latch on are at the top of the social hierarchy. These babies will be stronger than the other guinea pigs and easily transition into adulthood.