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Do Babies Recognize Their Parents?

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

When your newborn looks at you, you undoubtedly hope he recognizes you as the person who loves and cares for him. In the past, it was unclear whether infants had this ability, and experts thought they developed this skill as they grew. Your baby probably gives you cues that he recognizes your face when he sees you. If you're ever concerned about whether he recognizes you, talk to his pediatrician about performing an evaluation.

When It Happens

You might have heard your baby recognizes you by smell rather than appearance because his eyesight isn't fully developed at birth. While this is true to some extent, babies also begin to recognize their parents shortly after birth, notes Daphne Maurer, psychology professor and researcher at McMaster University. When your little one looks at your face, he is assembling cues that help him recognize you the next time he sees you.

What He Recognizes

According to Maurer, your baby might not recognize your facial features immediately, but instead recognizes your hair or the shape of your face. As your little one nears his second or third month, he'll start to know you by the color of your eyes, the shape of your mouth and the placement of your nose. Also at 3 months of age, your baby will still recognize you if your hair is covered with a hat, and he'll know who you are from different distances and angles.

How You'll Know

You probably get excited and happy when your little one wakes up from a nap and you get to see him. Your voice and quick response to him let him know you are glad. At the same time, your baby will display clues that let you know he recognizes you when he sees you. Watch your infant when you move into his line of sight and see what he does. He might quiver a little or shake his arms and legs. As he gets older, he'll smile or clap his hands. He might reach for you or coo and shriek to display his happiness that you're nearby.

Promoting Recognition

You love to look at your baby whenever you can, which is an ideal way to help him learn to recognize you. The more he looks at your face, the quicker and better he'll be at knowing who you are, even if you get your hair cut or go without makeup for the day. When you play with your baby, spend some time just looking at each other. Smile and talk, if you like, but keep your face where your baby can easily gaze at you as long as he wants to.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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