A fire truck siren rushing by outside, the fur of a favorite stuffed animal, Dad’s smile, Mom’s scent, and the taste of milk during 3 AM feedings are all daily occurrences that submerge baby senses in brand new experiences. A newborn’s sensory system metaphorically “hits the ground running” in the delivery room, and although the organization of sensory integration will continue to develop in the coming months, a newborn can see, smell, taste, feel, and hear from the first day of life. When sensory neurons do not function correctly or senses fail to integrate in a well-organized manner, learning disabilities, problems with attention and emotional regulation can take place.
Babies can actually see blurry faces as early as just a few hours after birth, while an acute sense of hearing develops when still in the womb. Parents-to-be who insist on using soothing voices when the baby is still in utero are correct in defending their stance as babies can startle at loud noises and respond to sounds as early as 24 weeks.
Touch is essential for psychological and emotional development. Stroking your baby’s back when putting her to bed will not only decrease the time between when you lay her down and she actually falls asleep, but will also make her feel secure and encourage healthy emotional development.
Tiny taste buds of newborns relish the sweetness of breast milk or formula. Babies who are breastfed tend to also be more attuned to their mother’s scent. More detailed exposure to textures, sights, and smells in the second and third month of life accompanies motor and language development, as babies seek out and learn about new stimuli.