As you cuddle your baby and gaze into her eyes, it’s easy to wonder what’s going on inside her head. Does she know who you are? Is she smiling because she’s happy?
“One of the most common questions I get from new parents is how much can their baby see,” said Dr. Sarah Adams, a pediatrician at the Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics office in Hudson. “At first, they can see about 16 inches away, which is roughly the distance to your face when you’re holding your baby.”
During the first month, your baby can see black and white and bright colors. By 1 to 2 months, he will be more aware of the activity in his surroundings and will notice when you walk into the room. By 4 months, he’ll follow you moving around the room.
“Our sense of smell is really instinctual, and in the first few weeks, a newborn will recognize her mother’s smell,” said Dr. Adams. “Within the first few weeks, she will also know the sound of mom’s voice, and by 4 to 6 months will recognize familiar faces.”
Babies should respond to sound right away and by 6 months will turn their head toward the direction of a sound. By about 9 months, they will know their name and turn to you when they are called.
Smiles, laughter and other baby sounds
When newborns smile for the first time, it’s not because they’re happy or content. Up to age 2 months, smiling is an involuntary reflex. By 4 months, babies will smile on their own and it’s purposeful.
Between 6 to 9 months, they’ll laugh in reaction to something. While developmental experts are divided over whether babies are laughing because they think something is funny, it’s a positive and adorable sign that your baby is enjoying himself.
Early on, when babies smile or react in their sleep, it’s just a reflex. However, we know babies dream, so by 4 to 6 months, those reactions could be in response to a dream.
“In the beginning, babies also make lots of grunts and squeaks,” said Dr. Adams. “This is because they breathe a lot faster than adults. As long as their color is good and it’s not happening frequently, it should be completely normal.”
When babies start cooing at around 2 months, they’re beginning to discover their voice, but they won’t start to babble or imitate sounds until about 6 months. At 9 months, they can imitate specific sounds such as “the raspberries” or mama and dada. By 12 months, they can say 1 to 3 words.
Over time, you will also recognize your baby’s unique cries, such as when he is hungry, needs changed, is hurting or simply wants to be held and cuddled.
Recognizing signs of illness
While babies may not be able to tell you when they’re sick or in pain, they do give you several signs that can help you determine what’s going on. This includes:
- * Being extra fussy or irritable
- * Not feeding well
- * Not sleeping well
- * Having symptoms of illness such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea
“How your baby is acting, sleeping and eating are the 3 biggest indicators of how she is feeling,” said Dr. Adams. “You know your baby best, so if she seems out of sorts or has any signs of illness, contact your doctor with your concerns.”