What Your New Baby Can Do
Your new baby wants to get to know you, and wants to communicate with you.
09:28 09 June 2009
Your new baby wants to get to know you, and wants to communicate
with you. He's also able to use his senses, and to learn a lot about
what's going on around him.
This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
Starting from scratch...
It's lovely to spend some time watching your baby, interacting with
him, and seeing his responses change and develop as he grows.
Your baby's senses
- Sight " at birth, if
your baby is alert and healthy, she'll open her eyes and gaze at you.
New babies love the human face, especially the eyes. They are attracted
to bright, bold colours and sharp outlines, and any sudden movement may
attract their gaze for a little. At first, your baby sees best at a
distance of between about eight and 12 inches. Look into her eyes, and
'lock' onto her gaze when you hold her.
- Touch " your baby can be
held against you, skin to skin, so he feels your warmth and knows the
difference between a female chest and a male one!
- Smell " your baby has a
good sense of smell, and this helps her find the nipple and begin to
breastfeed. Some babies don't feed well if you wear a strong perfume.
New babies turn to a breastpad with traces of their own mother's milk
on it, in preference to one without milk.
- Hearing " shake a rattle on
one side of your baby's head, then the other. See how he turns his head
to acknowledge it. Babies prefer gentle voices, it's natural for you to
speak softly and slightly higher pitched than usual. Other sounds new
babies like include the hair dryer, the vacuum, and the washing machine
" perhaps it's the rhythmic quality of the noise that's appealing.
- Taste " babies are aware of
different tastes, and breastmilk takes on subtle flavours, related to
your own diet. This is probably to prepare the baby for family foods,
so she is more familiar with them when the time comes for her to share
As well as these physical senses, your baby is ready to try out his
social skills. Talk to your baby, and give him time to respond... in a
short while, you'll notice you can have a 'conversation' with sounds
and expressions going to and from you both.
"...babies prefer gentle voices..."
Nappy changing time is a good moment to talk and play " and to see your baby enjoy the freedom of kicking and waving his arms.
You can play games with your baby from the very first days and weeks:
- Dance and sway to music " try rocking and patting as well, in time to the beat.
- Sing and whisper in his ear " and make funny noises and faces at him.
- Play peek-a-boo " put your
hands in front of your face, and take them away quickly, saying
'peek-a-boo' as you do so. She won't understand or anticipate the
sequence at first, but around about eight to 10 weeks, she'll start to
remember what happens next, and smile and gurgle with delight.
- Play with different 'feely things'
" have a box of different fabrics, such as towelling, velvet, cotton
wool, a clean feather and so on. Stroke them against his hands and
arms, and see his responses.
- Think about what he can see from his crib,
pram or pushchair when awake and give her something to look at " a
mobile indoors, or outside, park the pram underneath a leafy tree.
- The bath is a great place to play and discover how much fun you can have with water " see our feature on Bath games.
- Give him a relaxing massage with oil or fine talcum after the bath.
your baby's reactions to games and 'conversation'. Sometimes, your baby
may not want to take anything more in for the moment " he may turn
away, or cry, or avoid looking at you. Do respect that, and let him
take the time out!"
Your baby's reflexes
Newborn reflexes may disappear in a few days or weeks.
- The startle reflex makes your baby throw her arms and arch her back if she is startled or shocked.
- The rooting reflex appears if you gently touch your baby on the side of his mouth. He'll turn towards the touch.
- The grasping reflex means
your newborn baby's hands are clenched into a fist, and you can see her
'hold' any small object you put into her palm. Her toes curl into a
grasp if you stroke her feet on the inner sole...and if you stroke her
feet on the outer sole, her toes splay out.
- The sucking reflex means your baby will suck on anything that's placed in his mouth.
- The walking or stepping reflex shows if you hold your baby upright " one foot 'steps' in front of the other as if she is going to walk.
- The crawling reflex enables your baby to bend his legs underneath his body when you place him on his tummy.