Babies are born with all of the senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Some of the senses are not fully developed at birth. The newborn's senses are as follows:
Over the first few months, babies may have uncoordinated eye movements and may even appear cross-eyed. Stages of eye development:
- Babies are born with the ability to focus only at close range — about 8 to 10 inches or the distance between a mother's face to the baby in her arms.
- Babies are able to follow or track an object in the first few weeks of life.
- Newborns can detect light and dark but cannot see all colors. This is why many baby books and infant toys have distinct black and white patterns.
- Focus improves over the first 2 to 3 years of life to a normal 20/20 vision.
During pregnancy, many mothers find that the baby may kick or jump in response to loud noises and quiet with soft, soothing music. Hearing is fully developed in newborns.
- Babies with normal hearing should startle in response to loud sounds.
- These babies will also pay quiet attention to the mother's voice, and briefly stop moving when sound at a conversational level is begun.
- Newborns seem to prefer a higher-pitched voice (the mother's) to a low sounding voice (males).
- They also have the ability to tune out loud noises after hearing them several times.
- Newborns are screened for hearing while still in the hospital.
Studies have found that newborns have a strong sense of smell. Newborns prefer the smell of their own mother, especially to her breast milk.
Babies prefer sweet tastes over sour or bitter tastes. Babies also show a strong preference for breast milk and breastfeeding, especially if they are breastfed and then offered formula or a bottle.
Babies are comforted by touch. Here are a few ways to help your baby feel secure:
- Place a hand on the baby's abdomen, or cuddle him or her close.
- Swaddling (wrapping snugly in a blanket) is another technique used to help babies feel secure.
- Some mothers find their babies are comforted when "worn" in a sling or carrier.
- Holding a baby for feedings is also important.
- Breastfeeding ensures that a baby spends several hours in mother's arms. Although bottle feeding of breast milk may also be done.