While some senses are more developed than others, babies can see, hear, smell, taste and feel from birth. Take a look at our animation to see how developed your newborn baby’s senses are, keeping in mind that not all babies develop at the same rate.
A newborn baby can see close-up objects and is attracted to faces, but can’t see distant objects well. By about 4 weeks, your baby will start to focus both eyes together to see objects about 20-30 cm away, and will watch your face while being fed or talked to.
By 2 months, babies can see a lot more. They are more interested in toys, can recognise their parents’ faces, and may have started to follow moving objects with their eyes. And after 3 months, babies can recognise familiar objects and people from a distance, and begin to use their eyes and hands in coordination.
Newborn babies generally have a good sense of smell, and from birth are able to smell both good and bad odours. Most babies will show a preference for their mother’s smell, especially her breast milk, within a few days of birth.
Babies can hear in the womb, and are already familiar with their mother’s voice when born. Very young babies seem to prefer high-pitched voices, but can often be soothed by soft, calming noises.
By about one month, babies respond to loud noises by blinking, startling or frowning. Loud noises may also wake your baby from a light sleep. Your baby may also let you know that they can hear everyday noises, but the response to these noises is usually much more subtle. They may start moving their arms and legs about, or change their sucking rhythm while feeding in response to the noises around them. Over time, babies tend to get used to this everyday background noise and start to tune it out.
By the end of 2 months, babies can differentiate voices (especially their parents’ voices) from other sounds, and respond to them. And by 3 months, your baby will smile at the sound of your voice and turn his or her head towards the direction of sound.
From birth, your baby is sensitive to touch and pain. Newborns are soothed and comforted by stroking, cuddling and swaddling (being wrapped up snugly in a blanket or sheet), as it helps them feel secure.
Even though babies are only fed breast milk or formula at first, they are able to taste different flavours. Babies can taste differences in breast milk, depending on what their mother has eaten. In general, babies prefer sweet tastes to sour or bitter tastes.
While not all babies develop at the same rate, there are certain things that they should be able to do by certain ages. By taking your baby for regular health checks, your doctor can keep an eye on your baby’s progress.