Women's Healthcare Topics

Understanding Newborn Baby Behavior

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Your Baby is Constantly Learning

You may think that all your newborn does is eat, sleep, and wet diapers, but babies are actually more complex that you might think. In the first couple weeks of life, all of your baby's senses are alive and functioning – including sight, sound, and smell. Your infant is constantly learning about the world around him.

Though your baby can't tell you how he or she is feeling, when you're more aware of how your child behaves in response to light, touch, and noise, you will be able to see your baby's complex senses at work. For example, a loud sound or strong odor may immediately cause your baby to cry or jump.

Babies React to Smell and Taste

Newborn babies have a unique sense of smell and taste. Infants are born with a sweet tooth, and studies have indicated that newborns love sweet flavors.

New babies will choose to suck on bottles of sweet water rather than plain water, and they'll actually cry or turn their head away when you give them anything bitter or sour-tasting to drink.

In the first six months of life, babies should get all of their nutrition from prepared formula or your breast milk. When you introduce solid foods for your infant, you may consider starting him or her off with sweeter vegetables, such as sweet potatoes. As your baby gets older, he or she will learn to develop different tastes and enjoy various flavors.

Newborn Eyesight

Have you noticed that your baby is sometimes cross-eyed, or that he or she doesn't follow objects that well?

This isn't anything to worry about in the first couple of months. A newborn can only see well within an 8 to 12 inch range. He or she can see your face perfectly when you're holding and feeding him or her. But when you're farther away, his or her eyes may wander, which gives your child that cross-eyed look. Babies have a harder time focusing on distant objects.

As your baby gets older, the muscles in his or her eye will mature and his or her eyesight will improve. By the time your infant reaches two or three months old, his or her eyes will be able to focus on the same object at the same time. If your baby still has trouble focusing at this time, contact the pediatrician.

At birth, your newborn will be able to distinguish dark from light, but he or she won't be able to see a full range of colors. If you show your baby a pattern with black and white, or sharply contrasting colors, he or she will probably respond with a ton of interest. Interestingly, if you show your baby a picture with many closely related colors, he or she won't be as interested.

To help your baby's eyesight develop, give him or her plenty of interesting things to gaze at. Try not to overdo it – allowing your baby to look at one item at a time is plenty. For example, while your baby is in the crib, use a musical mobile with contrasting colors to keep him or her amused.

Babies Recognize Mom's Voice After Birth

This article will give you guidance in understanding newborn baby behavior.

Did you know that your baby has been hearing voices and sounds since he or she was in the womb? Starting in the second trimester, your baby has been listening to your voice and the voices of other family members. When an infant is born, it's his or her mother's voice that the baby first recognizes.

In most states, a new baby won't be released from the hospital until he or she undergoes a hearing screening. If your newborn was born in a non-hospital setting, you should get your newborn's hearing checked in the first month after delivery.

Sometimes, a baby may be born with hearing loss, which could have been caused by infections, high noise levels, or trauma. You might not notice that your child has trouble hearing until he or she is older. It's best to get your baby evaluated and treated as soon as possible.

For most babies, the sounds from the world are loud and clear. Newborns may cry at the sound of a loud vacuum cleaner or a sudden loud noise. In contrast, if you play soothing music to your baby, he or she may quiet down or move gently in time with the beat.

Though you will have to wait until your baby is four or five months before he or she makes any cooing or babbling sounds in response to you, your newborn is listening to you from the very beginning. You should be aware of how your little one responds to you or your partner's voice. For example, if your baby is crying in the crib, listen to how quiet he or she becomes when he or she hears your voice nearby. You should also notice how attentive your newborn is when you're using loving, soothing tones.

Before your baby can talk, he or she will be quite noisy. Crying will get his or her needs met. In addition, babies also sigh, sneeze, hiccup, and grunt. All of these noises are adorable, so enjoy them while they last.

Newborns Love to be Held

All humans love to be comforted, and babies are no different. The sense of touch teaches babies a great deal about their surroundings. After nine months in the womb, surrounded in a sea of warm amniotic fluid, newborn babies are exposed to a variety of new sensations – some are uncomfortable, while others are comforting. For instance, your baby may cringe and cry when he or she feels a gust of cold air against the cheek. A soft, cuddly blanket may give your newborn a sense of comfort and security. A kiss from mom or dad, and being rocked helps your child bond with you, and it will make him feel more secure. Research has also found that close emotional bonding actually promotes a baby's growth and development.

Don't hesitate to call your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby's ability to see or hear. The sooner that a problem is caught; the better it can be treated.


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