How do baby’s senses affect her development, and what can you do to stimulate her hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste? Louise Pyne investigates
Baby’s senses are a crucial part of her wellbeing and development, as she depends on each of her five senses to seek comfort, absorb information about her environment, take in nutrition, and bond with her family.
While senses such as hearing and touch are fully developed from birth, others – like vision – can take a few months to develop. As baby grows, she takes in the information she’s gathered to understand the world around her.
Baby’s senses: Touch
Touch is one of the best-developed senses at birth and it’s hugely important to the bonding process. She’ll begin to explore the world around her by using her grasp and sucking reflexes, reaching out for everything and anything she can.
When it comes to baby’s senses, touch is all about feeling secure so holding her close to you will make her feel warm and safe, while nurturing the connection between the two of you. Skin-to-skin cuddles will help to make her feel warm and secure, while releasing feel-good endorphins.
In fact, research shows that enjoying at least 50 minutes of skin-to-skin time immediately after birth helps your baby to recognise you by your smell alone. In addition, you can also emulate this cosy feeling by swaddling her tightly to mimic the cocooned and safe feeling of the womb.
Massaging baby oil or lotion into her skin after a bath will help her to feel calm and relaxed and giving her a variety of toys like a stuffed animal or a squeezy ball will help her become more familiar with different shapes
When she’s born, your baby is only able to see up to 12 inches away and her field of vision is blurry, seeing mostly shapes and making out certain shades. By around the five-month mark, she’ll be able to see farther and even track moving objects.
Encourage baby’s senses by decorating her nursery in uplifting colours and patterns to get her used to seeing a variety of hues. Simple games like peekaboo and pat-a-cake will also help develop hand-to-eye coordination, and taking her on regular trips to the park will also enable her eyes to absorb different sights.
Your baby is intelligent, and will recognise different smells early on. Interestingly, newborns are primed to the scent of breast milk and can easily differentiate it from formula – which sometimes makes things tricky if you’re moving from breast to bottle.
She’ll quickly get to recognise your unique scent and feel secure when you’re around. Avoid strongly-scented washing detergents and perfumes, as these can interfere with the natural smells that she’s getting to know.
A comforter object or blanket that smells of you may help her get to sleep – just remember to remove any objects from the cot once your baby is asleep.
Your baby’s hearing begins to develop well before you welcome her into the world, so by the time you meet her she’ll already be familiar with your voice and by around four months, she may start to copy specific sounds that you make.
Stimulate baby’s senses by making the effort to read, sing nursery rhymes and chat to your baby as you go about your day helps to promote her language development and stimulates bonding. Alter the tone of your voice – babies love hearing a soft-spoken, high-pitched voice.
You could also help to soothe her at bedtime by playing a recording of white noise which mimics the sounds she heard in the womb.
Baby’s senses: Taste
From day one, your baby’s taste buds are fully formed. If you’re breastfeeding, she’ll be able to distinguish different flavours of the foods you’ve eaten through your milk – and strong flavours like curries or salty foods may initially put her off nursing, but at the same time will get her used to a wide variety of tastes, which may actually help to offset picky eating in the future, so make sure that you eat a varied diet.
- How Can I Reduce Stress During Pregnancy?
- Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise: The Best Fitness Classes and Advice
- Your Newborn Baby: What to Expect in the First Few Days