Baby’s Brain in Week 1
Baby’s here! Right now, you’re likely exhausted and excited to have this new little person living in your home, even if he or she isn’t your first child.
At some point, with your own bleary eyes fluttering, you may be changing his diaper and wonder, “Is my baby really staring at me—again?” Indeed! Infants are wired to look for faces. But you might be wondering if just any face will do. Does your child like to study Aunt Amy’s face—or even Elmo’s—as much as she likes looking at yours?
What the Research Shows
Researchers too wondered when infants know you (and other important caregivers) from unfamiliar people. So here’s what they did: They hooked a pacifier up to a video screen placed eight to 10 inches from a baby’s eyes. When the infant sucked on the pacifier, a picture of a face appeared on the screen. If the face belonged to a stranger, the infant showed interest by sucking on the pacifier, making the face appear. In case after case, the baby lost interest after a short while, stopped sucking, and the strangers’ faces disappeared.
Next, when each newborn sucked on the pacifier, a picture of her mom, dad, grandparent, or nanny appeared. Seeing the familiar face, the infant sucked longer and harder than she did when viewing the stranger’s face. The infant was willing to work harder—in this case, suck more—to keep the familiar face in view. And these well-discerning babies were just 1 week old!
Why do babies come equipped to pick out their familiar caregivers from others? It’s all about their instincts to survive. When a familiar face is in view, the infant relaxes. She isn’t stressed because somehow she knows that familiar people will do the most to see that she’s fed, held, rocked, and loved—all the ingredients the child needs to survive and thrive.
Week 1 Brain Booster
Does this research mean that you need to be in Baby’s face 24-7? Certainly not. But it does mean that she won’t settle for just anyone. When Aunt Amy comes to visit from Phoenix and your child fusses in her presence, reassure her that in time Baby will come to know her, but that right now your child recognizes you from strangers and prefers you.
It also means that your presence (and that of her other caretakers) is crucial to your child, not only now, but also into the future. As she grows, she may seem more interested in peers and the media than in what you think, but don’t let this fool you: Your presence and opinions will always hold an important position in your child’s life.