Growing up: The baby phase

Most people think that a newborn baby cannot do anything at all. According to everyone, a newborn baby is helpless and completely dependent on its caregivers. We know that a baby cannot feed himself and he cannot move his chair closer to the stove when he is cold. Can a newborn baby really do anything at all? How helpless is a newborn baby really? From what age can young children perform certain tasks?


Around 1900, newborns were still thought to be confused and helpless creatures. It was thought that newborn babies, after the safe and quiet life in their mother’s womb, were overwhelmed by so many new sensory perceptions. John B. Watson, an American psychologist, described in the 1920s that a newborn baby was a wiggly lump of flesh that could only give a few simple responses. Also in 1964, a medical textbook claimed that babies are unable to respond to sound or direct their gaze. Even today, there are doctors who believe that babies do not feel pain. Make no mistake, babies can do more than you think.

The hearing

Before babies are born they can already hear and shortly after they are born they already respond to certain sounds. It turns out that babies really enjoy hearing a heartbeat, whether it’s their mother’s or someone else’s heartbeat doesn’t really matter. A baby likes it when we carry it on the left side as our heart is on that side. Babies prefer human voices over other sounds and they especially like feminine voices. Newborn babies recognize their mother’s voice and become confused when they hear their mother’s voice and see someone else’s head.

The smell

Newborns, especially girls, appear to be able to smell the nipple, the breast and their mother herself immediately after birth. These have a clear smell for the baby and after a week this smell is already recognized as their own. You will understand that a baby prefers this scent to the scent of another mother. Also, the smell of its mother calms a baby when the baby is sad.

The taste

Even the taste appears to be more developed than initially thought. Immediately after birth, babies already have a preference for certain flavors. Vanilla is one of the flavors that babies really like and they also don’t like the taste of banana, spinach, on the other hand, they immediately spit out.

The sight

A newborn baby cannot yet see clearly, as vision is less developed than, for example, taste or hearing. This is because the retina is not yet fully developed at birth and because there are not yet sufficient connections between the nerve cells. A one-month-old child can see the outline of a head but only when it is very close. How amazing it is that just three weeks later the baby recognizes his mother’s face. At the age of two months, a baby can already distinguish colors. And at the age of three months he can perceive objects at a distance. A three-month-old baby can also recognize facial expressions. A fun experiment to try with a three-month-old baby is to alternately appear above the crib with different facial expressions and then see how the baby reacts to the different expressions. You will see that the baby reacts differently each time to the expressions angry, surprised, sad or happy.

What do you mean, helpless?

As you have read here, the total helplessness of babies is not that bad. When the baby starts crying, he is indicating that he is hungry or wants attention. He can extend his hands and follow a moving head. It is believed by psychologists that these basic skills are due to physical developments alone, as they are present without any form of learning. It is very likely that these basic skills are due to the advanced anatomical and physiological growth at birth. Especially due to the already advanced size and complexity of the nervous system.

Research in babies

How can we know what babies are thinking if they can’t tell us what they are thinking and feeling? Through research we can deduce a lot from the behavior of babies. Because babies can suck on something, focus their gaze on something and look at something, it is possible to measure babies’ perception, focused attention and preferences. The fact that babies suck more vigorously when they are having a good time was used to investigate whether a newborn can distinguish between voices. Three-day-old babies were put on headphones and given a special pacifier in their mouths. They alternately heard the voice of their mother and another woman. Fifteen of the sixteen babies responded to their mother’s voice by sucking faster. The conclusion was drawn that a three-day-old baby is able to distinguish between voices. To investigate whether a baby has a preference for certain objects, a special pacifier was again placed in the baby’s mouth, but this time the babies looked at certain objects. The combination of looking for a long time and sucking vigorously on the pacifier indicated how much the baby liked the particular object. It turned out that babies like objects with many colors more than objects with few or no colors. It also turned out that babies prefer to look at an object that has many contours, such as a doll, than at an object with few contours, such as a smooth ball.

read more

  • Growing up: Wow, I’m growing up
  • Growing up: Psychological development from zero to fifteen
  • Growing up: The adolescence period
  • Growing up: Physical development in the adolescent
  • Growing up: Middle age

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