Newborn Senses

big eyesYou have brought your bubba home and you are wondering just what your little one can actually see and hear.


Your newborns sight

  • Your newborn can see best at a distance of only 20 to 30 cm, which is about the distance from your arms to your face when holding bub.
  • Your newborn can see things farther away, but it is harder to focus on distant objects so the background is a bit blury.
  • Newborn babies are very sensitive to bright light and are more likely to open their eyes in low light.
  • Their main interest is human faces, followed by bright colours, contrasting patterns, and movement.

At this early age Black-and-white pictures or toys will attract and keep your baby’s interest far longer than objects or pictures with lots of colors that look similar to their eyes.

Even a crude line drawing of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth may keep your infant’s attention if held close within range.

When calm but alert, baby should be able to follow the slow movement of your face or an interesting simple object.

So the best books to read bubba are ones with simple pictures, or what you want to read, as they will get more from the words at this age than from the images.

Having said that, having one book you read to them from birth will help them recognise it earlier. We read hairy Maclarys bone to our little girl and at just a month old I felt she recognised it. As she would go quiet in my lap and sit still (from crying) when I got it out.

As babies grow, vision improves so that by the end of 3 months they can recognize familiar faces even at a distance. Human faces are one of an infant’s favorite things to look at, especially a parent’s and his or her own.

Showing bubba their reflection in the mirror is sure to get a reaction.

Your baby’s color vision is also developing, so brightly colored wall hangings or toys will help develop this ability to distinguish color and form. Soft pastel colors, though, are difficult for a baby to appreciate — something to keep in mind when purchasing toys and books.

At 4-7 months old babies enjoy more complex designs and can distinguish colors. Try reading books with large, brightly colored pictures to your baby, who will enjoy staring at the pages.


Your newborns hearing

Most newborns have a hearing screening at the hospital.  If your baby didn’t have it, or was born at home or a birthing center, it’s important to have a hearing screening within the first month of life. Your newborn has been hearing sounds since they were in your womb. Mother’s heartbeat, the gurgles of your digestive system, and even the external sounds of mommys voice and the voices of other family members have been a part of a baby’s world before birth. Once your baby is born, the sounds of the outside world come in loud and clear.

So it is never to early to start reading aloud.

Music also helps calm baby when sleeping. As the sound of the music might hold their interest while they doze off. When asleep the constant sound is less disturbing than a loud noise from the street, and it muffles those sounds.

You can also try “white noise” – the stove top extractor fan, vacuum or bathroom fan, even an off tune radio. This constant mild noise is soothing and not dissimilar to what they heard in the womb.

Enjoy watching your babies senses develop. It will be a long time before they have any common sense, but their other senses develop quickly.

What is your babies favourite thing to look at? Our was the corners of rooms. For about 5 months our bub was fascinated with corners and would peer around you when holding her to get a good squiz at an interesting corner!


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