How Much Can My Newborn See? All About Baby Senses

How Much Can My Newborn See? All About Baby Senses

Mar 3, 2018

When holding your brand-new baby for the first time, they don't seem to hold quite as much wonder for the world yet as you do toward them. They certainly have alert periods and can wiggle, cry, look at your face, and eat, but you might wonder just how aware they are of their surroundings. Let's talk about your baby's senses, and how developed they are in the first days after birth.


Your newborn can definitely see already, as long as the object is fairly close by. Their vision is 20/200 at birth, so they can visually focus on something—or someone—only about 7-18 inches away. Hey, that's about how far away your face is when you're snuggling them! Babies like to look at your face, especially your eyes. You'll notice them locking eyes with you while you hold and feed them. They also like contrasting patterns of lights and darks, as well as round shapes. Your nipple is a literal bullseye for your baby—a built-in homing beacon to aid them in finding food.


Your baby developed their sense of hearing pretty early in the womb—by 18 weeks' gestation they can distinguish sounds, and by 24 weeks they have a well-developed sensitivity to sounds and can hear you and your family members talking, singing, and laughing. Your newborn may calm down when hearing your familiar voice or become startled at an unexpected loud noise. White noise and heartbeat noises can also help mimic the muffled, watery environment of the womb, which is why machines and apps that recreate these sounds are such popular nursery staples.


A newborn's smelling capabilities are extremely refined. Within just days of birth, they can recognize all sorts of different smells. Even more impressive: they can smell the milk from your breasts and identify it from another mom's breastmilk by six days old! This is why many moms find that even though their baby is calm and content in another's arms, when their baby comes back they start rooting and opening the mouth for the breast. They smell dinner—you’re a 24-hour buffet!


Your newborn is able to taste all sorts of different flavors but has a preference for sweet. Breastmilk has a sweet and mild flavor in general that the baby becomes accustomed to but depending on what you eat the milk can expose the baby to all the nuances of food. Your baby would probably make a face and pull away if exposed to something sour, bitter, or salty.


Touching your baby is incredibly beneficial for both of you! Skin-to-skin time calms your baby and helps to regulate their temperature, breathing, and heart rate. Science is on the side of what parents instinctively know: a newborn baby should be held, rocked, and cuddled as much as possible. Babies also love to be stroked, bounced, and patted gently by their caregivers. You can also learn infant massage to open up more ways that you can provide a healing, comforting touch to your baby.

As you can see, your newborn has an incredible ability to adapt through the five senses and they learn very, very quickly about their surroundings!

Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.