A newborn baby’s sight is very underdeveloped. Early on their vision will be blurry and largely only able to distinguish between varying shades of dark to light. Newborns struggle to follow movement and focus on objects, however their range of vision is attuned to about 10 inches of distance – roughly the distance to your face if you are breastfeeding them. In fact, the first objects they are able to recognise are people’s faces – and yours will be top of the list.
Your baby’s hearing develops in your womb, and by the time they are born they will be able to recognise the sound of your voice. Although they can’t yet understand you, it’s through your constant speaking to them that they will develop their understanding of tone. This communication is important in helping them to develop understanding of your speech.
Your baby can’t yet control their legs and arms, and these often flail wildly as their muscles develop neural pathways to their brain. Your baby will, however, have a grasping reflex, which you’ll notice when you put your finger in their hand.
When their cheek is touched too they will usually turn their head to the side – this is how they find and latch onto you nipple when you breastfeed. These moments of skin-to-skin contact for both of you will release oxytocin, a hormone that increases happiness and a sense of bonding.
Your baby will be attuned to your smell even before they are born, and this sense will rapidly affix itself to your unique scent the more time you spend in skin-to-skin contact in the first hours after your baby is born.
Your baby has many taste buds at this age and can differentiate easily between bitter tastes – which they will have an aversion to – and sweet. They have an early preference for sweet tastes, which is just as well as breast milk is quite sweet.
Although your baby will enjoy sucking fingers and toys, this is not to taste them; your baby has more sensitivity in their mouth than anywhere else, which supports their feeding, or ‘rooting’, reflex. Although this is linked to that reflex, it is also their way of exploring the world.