As a newborn, your baby is using all of her senses to take in all the sights and sounds of the world around her. She will begin developing speech and language from the day she is born, so her hearing is especially important. While her sight will continue to develop during the first few months of life, she will use it to begin learning to recognize you right away. You can help stimulate these senses as your baby grows and make sure that they are developing properly.
When your baby is born, she does not have fully developed vision, though she can focus on things that are about 8 to 10 inches away from her face -- the perfect distance to see your face as you hold her in your arms. During the first few months of life, her eyes will begin to work together and her hand-eye coordination will improve as she tracks objects with her eyes and reaches for them, according to the American Optometric Association. At first, she will enjoy looking at brightly colored or high-contrast items, but by about five months of age, her color vision should be fully developed. At this time, she will also gain depth perception. Her vision will continue to develop during the first year, and by her first birthday she should have reached normal adult levels, according to HealthyChildren.org.
Stimulating Vision Development
During the first few months, offer your baby a variety of brightly colored toys or show her books with black-and-white pictures that will capture her attention. Continue reading books with bright and colorful pages as her color vision develops as well. Slowly move toys across her field of vision and watch as she tracks them with her eyes. At first she may lose track of the toy as it moves, but with enough practice she will begin to follow it smoothly with her eyes and begin reaching for things that interest her. Make sure to change her scenery from time to time to give her lots of interesting things to look at, whether it's a trip to the park or the grocery store or just playing in a different room in the house.
Your baby was hearing sounds even while she was in the womb, according to KidsHealth, but once she is born the sounds of the world become loud and clear. Babies prefer the sound of the human voice over any other sound, according to HealthyChildren.org. Often they like the sound of higher-pitched voices, and adults often change the way they speak to infants intuitively, raising the pitch of their voice and slowing the rate of their speech. Your voice is your baby's favorite sound in the world because she has learned to associate it with comfort. By one month old, she will recognize you by voice and soon she will be making some sounds back to you. Over the rest of the first year, she will add more sounds to her repertoire and continue babbling and imitating sounds. By the time she is about three months old, she will begin to coordinate looking and hearing, and respond to sounds by searching for them with her eyes.
How To Help
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most babies participate in a hearing screening at birth to determine if they might have hearing loss. Since babies begin learning about speech and language at birth, it is important to identify hearing loss early and get the care your baby might need in order to develop language and social skills. Babies may pass their newborn hearing screening and still develop hearing loss, so it is important to routinely follow their hearing development. Talk to your baby's doctor right away if you notice any changes in the way she is responding to your voice or if you don't notice her making sounds back to you. To informally check your baby's hearing, make a noise across the room or when you are out of her sight, and watch for her response.
- HealthyChildren.org: Baby's Vision Development
- HealthyChildren.org: Hearing and Making Sounds
- KidsHealth: Senses and Your Newborn
- American Optometric Association: Infant Vision
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What's Your Baby's Hearing Screening Result?
- KidsHealth: Senses and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
- Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images