Your Newborn’s Five Senses: A Peek Into Their World

Babies are born with all the necessary senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. While not all are fine-tuned just yet, your baby’s senses are taking in a whole new world.  From faces they never saw before to hearing with clarity out of the womb, feeling your soft caress, tasting nourishment, and smelling their mother’s scent, there is so much to discover.

So if you’re wondering how your newborn experiences the world, read on.

What Are They Seeing?

Some babies have big eyes, while others have smaller ones. Genetics plays a role in that, but all infant eyes are half the size of ours. Their eyes will actually grow the most in their first year and then taper off until puberty.

You may notice that from time to time, their eyes appear crossed. Don’t worry; they’re learning to coordinate eye movements as they’re only born with the ability to focus at a close range – about 8 –10 inches. Within that range, they can follow or track an object. And their focusing skills will vastly improve in the first 2 to 3 years of life.

Bright colored toys, mobiles, and stuffed animals are marketed toward parents, not infants. Newborns can only tell the difference between light and dark; they cannot see all colors.

What They Like: Infants will fixate on a face soon after birth. They enjoy faces as well as toys with high-contrast patterns. At just one week old, your infant can recognize your face.

The Things They Hear

Even in the womb, your newborn is sensitive to sound. You may remember her kicking you when the vase shattered on the tile floor. And hearing is fully developed in newborns. If they have normal hearing, they will be startled at loud sounds, and will respond to your voice – singing, talking, or cooing.

You should notice that when you speak softly, he will pay quiet attention to you and he’ll probably stop what he’s doing when sound at a conversational level is near.

It’s important to recognize hearing loss early in life. If not detected in the first year, the brain’s hearing centers won’t be stimulated, and it will be difficult to recover later. This can delay speech and language. Most hospitals will screen newborns before leaving the hospital, but keep an eye out for any unusual signs.

What They Like: Newborns immediately recognize their mother’s voice and favor a higher-pitched voice (female tones over a low-sounding male voice).

The Best Touch

What a sharp contrast from the womb to the outside world! No wonder our newborns come out crying and thrashing. The womb was cozy and warm, while the outside world is . . . well, so large.

While your newborn may not be touching with her hands just yet, she does respond to touch. Babies are quickly swaddled so you can snuggle and help them feel more secure. Napping chest to chest is a good way for you and/or your partner to achieve this important sense of touch. Some colicky babies are also comforted with they are carried next to your chest in a sling. And most babies love being caressed, petted, and bathed.

What they like: Skin-to-skin contact. This stimulates the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone that facilitates bonding. Breastfeeding is a good time for this or if you’re not nursing, you and/or your partner can hold your baby close to your chest while you’re bottle feeding. 

A Keen Sense of Smell

Smell is one of those early senses that’s developed in most living creatures for survival.  Even creatures in the animal kingdom, which lack more sophisticated senses like vision, do have a great sense of smell. Similarly, studies show that newborns have a keen sense of smell. While they’re born with poor eyesight, a newborn’s sense of smell is formed in the womb via the brain’s olfactory (smell) center. And as with all creatures, this highly-developed sense is to help them localize their food. They can smell your breastmilk and will worm their way to it.

What They Like: You. Especially, if you’re breastfeeding. A newborn can actually differentiate between your milk and another mom’s milk.

What It All Tastes Like

Taste buds begin forming early in womb, and a baby has thousands more taste buds than adults do. They can taste all flavors except saltiness, which comes in after 4 months. They favor anything sweet – like your breast milk. And while your baby has yet to eat solid food, she has tasted them all – through the flavors in your amniotic fluid (from the foods you ate yourself).

If babies are breastfed first and then introduced to formula, they become milk critics. If they’re suddenly introduced to formula, they’re likely to refuse it at first.

What They Like: Infants prefer sweet tastes, but they can distinguish between sour, bitter, and sweet.

How does your little one react to their world? Share your stories in the comments below!

Tags : baby   newborns   health   development   

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