our everyday life

Do Babies Instinctively Know Their Mothers After Birth?

by Christen Robinson

While your baby's birth may be the first time you lay eyes on one another, those nine months together still count for something. Studies have found that newborn babies are able to identify and recognize their mothers using a few key senses.

Hearing

Newborns recognize their mother's voices at birth; in fact a baby can recognize his mother's voice even before he is born. According to the Journal of Psychological Science in 2003, researchers made recordings of pregnant women reciting poetry and played them to babies in utero. When a baby listened to a recording of his mother's voice his heart rate increased, whereas a baby's heart rate would become slower when listening to a recording of another woman's voice. The researchers theorize that the babies heart rates increased because they were excited to hear their mothers' voices. So go ahead and talk and sing to your baby before and after birth. He knows it's you.

Touch

Newborns do not necessarily recognize their mothers through touch alone, but it is a vital piece of the bonding process. Babies thrive and develop more quickly with touch and contact. Experts from the website Scientific American state that skin to skin contact between mother and infant helps calm babies and improves sleep, thereby facilitating brain development. Your body is made to comfort your infant -- a new mother's chest is about two degrees warmer than the rest of her body, creating the perfect place for her newborn to snuggle. Later on, your body temperature will regulate itself according to your infant's needs.

Smell

Your newborn baby's sense of smell is already very developed, and she relies on it more than less-developed senses, such as vision. Newborn babies can identify the scent of their mother's amniotic fluid three days after birth. They are immediately drawn to the scent of breast milk. If left on a mother's chest immediately after birth, the newborn will follow the scent of the milk and root around until she latches on to nurse. Your baby will prefer your natural scent to anything else, so don't worry about perfume or scented lotions. Some pediatricians recommend wearing a t-shirt and them putting it under your baby's fitted crib sheet to help her sleep at night. Make sure to lay the shirt flat, and never put it on top of the fitted sheet.

Sight

Your newborn will obviously not recognize you by sight, because this will be his first glimpse of your face. Newborns can only see to a distance of about 12 inches. This is the perfect distance between his eyes and your face when he is cradled in your arms. Hold him often and let him learn the contours of your face; it will soon become familiar to him. The most expensive mobile or baby toy cannot come close to delighting him like the simple joy of gazing into each other's eyes.

About the Author

Christen Robinson has been writing educational content and materials since 2004. She also writes for eHow, Answerbag and Education.com. Robinson teaches special education, and specializes in working with children with autism. She holds a master's degree in teaching from Central Washington University.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images