Understanding Your Baby’s Five Senses
Babies are born with all five senses: hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. However, some are more developed than others at first. While sight takes longer to develop, others such as hearing, touch, taste and smell are keen from day one. In fact, babies already have an acute sense of hearing in the womb. Think of the five senses as the essential tools your baby will use to learn about her environment. The more you understand your baby’s five senses, the more you will understand her cognitive development. Here are some fun facts you might not have known.
A baby’s hearing starts developing in the womb. Babies can hear sounds from inside the womb around 23 weeks. At 35 weeks, all parts of the ear are completely formed. After birth, her hearing will continue to develop.
- Babies are tuned into high-pitched, human voices.
- A baby recognizes her mother’s voice right away, since she’s heard it in the womb for nine months.
- She’ll start to look for the source of the sounds she’s hearing at four months.
- At six months, she’ll try to imitate the sounds she hears.
- Around her first birthday, she’ll hit a new milestone saying single words like "ma-ma" and "da-da."
Another fun fact: her hearing will continue to develop until age 12.
Unlike a baby's hearing, her sight is much less developed. During her first three months, she’ll experience blurry vision. It’s not that her eyes aren’t physically capable of seeing, it’s due to the fact that her brain isn’t ready to process so much visual information yet. As she grows older and her brain develops, her vision will become much clearer.
- A baby can see color after birth, but distinguishing one from another is difficult.
- She can start to see differences in color at one month old.
- At three months, she’ll develop depth perception.
- Her clarity and depth perception is close to full development at eight months.
- She might see subtle changes in color later on.
Touch plays a vital role in how your baby bonds and communicates with you. It’s another sense that develops in the womb as early as the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy. She’s very tuned into her sense of touch as a newborn. Your touch will not only soothe and relax her, but enhance her growth and comfort level.
- Your baby’s skin is sensitive, but her mouth, cheeks, face, hands, abdomen and the soles of her feet are the most sensitive.
- Skin-to-skin contact is an important part of bonding and communication.
- The grasping reflex with her hand allows her to respond to touch.
- Touch extends to a baby's mouth, which is why she loves to put things in hers. It helps her explore.
- Your baby enjoys the gentle stroking of her skin.
Fun fact: Close contact with baby benefits parents as well. Holding her close releases oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.
As a baby's sense of taste starts developing in the womb and at nine weeks, she already has the tiniest taste buds along with a fully formed mouth and tongue. She’ll actually taste her first flavors inside the womb through the amniotic fluid. As a newborn, her sense of taste is highly developed.
- She highly prefers sweet over sour, salty and bitter flavors.
- Her sense of taste will improve as she grows older.
- Your baby will often favor foods she was exposed to inside the womb.
- Your baby’s taste preferences are not genetic.
- Baby can detect a difference in your breast milk taste depending upon what you eat. This can have a positive effect as well on her taste buds introducing her to a variety of foods before she can eat them as solids.
Sense of smell is closely connected to her sense of taste. This is due to the fact that she not only tastes the foods you eat through the amniotic fluid but smells them as well. Just like taste, as a newborn, her sense of smell is also highly developed.
- Smell is processed by the memory controlling part of the brain, which is why there are strong associations between particular scents and experiences. Smelling the same scent later on may trigger a memory.
- Making up for her still developing sense of sight, she recognizes you by your scent.
- The scent of your breast milk is appealing to her.
- When you and your baby smell each other during cuddle time, you both release higher levels of oxytocin.
- Stronger aromas can interfere with her sense of taste, so be sure to keep the strong perfumes away while breastfeeding.