*Originally published in May 2010
During the first few months of your baby’s life, she’s using a lot of energy absorbing, exploring and processing information about her new world with all her complex senses. We take a look at how your baby’s senses develop and what you can do to stimulate them.
- At birth, your baby can see best at a distance of between 20cm to 30cm; typically the space between you and your baby’s face while you are feeding her.
- She will stare at objects placed in her range of vision and can also tell the difference between a human face and other objects.
- Your baby can distinguish between light and dark, and prefers black-and-white patterns.
- By the age of four months, your baby can see all colours and will likely prefer red.
- Most Caucasian babies have light blue or grey eyes at birth, but this may change when they’re around six months old.
- You may notice that your baby has uncoordinated eye movements and can sometimes even appear to be cross-eyed. This is quite normal and her eye muscles will mature and strengthen during the months to come.
Tips to stimulate baby’s sight
- Avoid over-stimulating your baby’s eyesight during the first two months of her life.
- At this stage, she is becoming familiar with your face and her hands. Stimulate her vision with only one item at a time. Don’t forget to reposition her so that she can see different scenes.
- Hang a mobile in her crib (make sure it’s completely out of her reach).
- Babies seem to prefer a higher-pitched voice (Mom’s voice) to a low-sounding voice (Dad’s).
- In the first few days after birth, your baby hears sounds more like echoes. After a few days, external noises become loud and clear, and she might be startled at unexpected sounds, and become upset at loud, sharp noises. Or she may be soothed by the hum of a vacuum cleaner or the sounds of softly beating drums and soothing music.
- When you hold your baby to your chest, you will notice how comforting it is for her, as your heartbeat is a familiar sound to her.
- Within several weeks after your baby’s birth, she will begin to look for the direction from which sounds come, but she will still prefer human voices to other sounds.
- Your baby’s taste buds begin forming early in foetal development, although they are not fully matured at birth. It is known that babies prefer sweet tastes to other flavours; that is probably why a mother’s breast milk is considerably sweet.
- Your baby’s taste for bitter, sour and salty flavours develops later, but she can distinguish the different tastes from each other.
- In the first six months of your baby’s life, she gets much-needed nutrition from breast milk. When you introduce your older baby onto solid foods, it may be easier to start with sweeter veggies, like carrots, pumpkin or sweet potatoes. As your child gets older, offer her different tastes and textures so that she can develop a liking for a variety of foods.
- Researchers believe that your baby’s sense of smell is developed very early on in foetal development – certain flavours such as garlic and onion, may already be familiar to her.
- Other studies have found that within the first few days, a baby will show preference for the smell of her mother.
- As your baby grows, she will learn more about smells – which ones are ‘good’, such as foods, and which smells are not so pleasant to her. You’ll notice that she instinctively turns her head when she dislikes a smell.
- It’s still unclear what smells – except that of their moms and food – babies tend to like.
- Your baby is very sensitive to touch because skin is the largest organ of the body. (Her hands and lips are especially responsive to touch.)
- One of the most important ways you can communicate with your baby is through touch. Just as it is to most human beings, touch is very important to your baby, as it makes her feel safe, secure and loved.
- While in your womb, she becomes accustomed to being warm and rocked by your movements.
- Having come from this cosy environment into the outside world, your baby is faced with cold for the first time. Clothes, blankets and a crib can also be quite a challenge for her; that’s why skin-to-skin contact is so important.
- After your baby’s birth, she can suddenly move her legs and arms freely, and this can make her anxious. You may notice that she likes to put objects in her mouth – this is because the tongue is the most sensitive organ.
Tips to stimulate baby’s sense of touch
- Cuddling your baby can help her to feel protected. Wrapping her in a snug blanket is another way to make her feel more secure.
- Massage your baby. Studies show that babies who are massaged for 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime may sleep better and be less irritable. By laying your baby on different surfaces and allowing her to come into contact with various objects, she will discover the difference between hard and soft, hot and cold, and rough and smooth.
- Daily routine activities, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, holding and walking with your baby in your arms stimulate her sense of touch and movement.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.