Newborn development
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New Baby: Senses

Just how much can your new baby interact with his new world?

Posted: 15 December 2008
by Laura Lee Davies

You might be amazed at what your newborn baby actually looks like and a lot happens in your child's first 48 hours, but how is he reacting to his new world in the early days and weeks?

Nowadays, it is common practice to perform the newborn hearing test because any potentially serious hearing problems can be picked up at this point.
Your baby can already hear whilst in the womb and therefore will usually be comforted when you are around, because he will hear your voice - something he is already familiar with.
In the early weeks, babies respond mainly to voices - talking and singing – but a sudden loud noise may disturb them. However, constant, loudish noises may not be so upsetting (a vaccuum cleaner or traffic while you are walking down a busy road, for example) so there is no need to pussyfoot around your new child.

A baby's eyesight takes a few weeks to develop fully, but at birth he will be able to focus on things to roughly the distance between your face and his eyes whilst he is at the breast (about 25-30cm).
(There are a few eye problems which can occur early on after the birth, and which are worth checking with your GP.)

New babies love a reassuring and loving touch as much as we do!
Closeness to you means a lot to him, which is why these days women are almost always encouraged to place a new baby on their chest (even of they are not breastfeeding) to benefit from the instant bond of touch.
Gentle, warm baths and your delicate touch on his skin will help him build confidence in his world in the coming weeks and months. For this, baby massage can be a wonderful experience for you both to share, from around six to ten weeks up to about six months at least.

New babies can smell their mother's skin and her milk and will quickly form an important attachment to her. (Indeed, later on, when a mother may want to give up breastfeeding or need to offer breastmilk from a bottle, she will probably find that at first, she has to be out of the room when someone else is offering the feed, otherwise her child will smell her presence and want the breastmilk he is used to.)

This is already developed before your baby is born.
As with smell (they are closely linked), a baby will get used to the taste of his milk and you may find, if you are breastfeeding, that very strong foods affect his appetite for his feed. (The upside of this is that many people believe that breastfed babies are more likely to be open to a wider range of foods later on because their mother's milk varies depending on what she has eaten.)

For ways to communicate with your baby and help him develop his new senses, go to Playtime with a New Baby.
Also read Newborn Baby: The First Month in our Baby Development section, and Know-how: Bonding with your Baby.

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