Sight

Your newborn is nearsighted and sees best at 12 to 18 inches. That's the perfect distance for seeing the most important things to babies — their parents' faces as they hold or feed them. Your baby will love to fixate on your face, and it will be the favorite entertainment for a while. Give your newborn plenty of face-to-face time to get to know you.

In addition to being interested in human faces, newborns are also engaged by brightness, movement and simple, high-contrast objects. Many toy stores sell black-and-white and brightly colored toys, mobiles and nursery decorations.

Because newborns can't fully control their eye movement, they may appear to be cross-eyed at times, or their eyes may briefly diverge and look walleyed. This is normal. Your baby's eye muscles will strengthen and mature during the next few months.

When your baby is quiet and alert, provide simple objects for him or her to look at. Try slowly moving an object to the right or left in front of him or her. Most babies will briefly follow moving objects with their eyes, and sometimes with their heads. But don't overload the baby — one item at a time is plenty. If your baby is tired or overstimulated, he or she won't want to play this game.

Check with your baby's health care provider regarding vision if:

Your child's eyes increasingly tend to cross or diverge

• Your child's eyes appear cloudy or filmy

• Your child's eyes seem to wander randomly and rarely focus

• You have other concerns about your newborn's ability to see

Hearing

Once the baby is born, new sounds will capture his or her attention. In response to noises, babies may pause in sucking, widen their eyes or stop fussing. They may startle at a loud noise such as a dog barking, and they may be soothed by the hum of the vacuum cleaner or the whirring of the clothes dryer. But babies can easily adapt and tune out noises, so they may react to a particular sound only once or twice.

Newborns can tell the difference between human voices and other sounds. Babies are most curious about their parents' voices. Your baby will learn quickly to associate your voice with food, warmth and touch. He or she will listen carefully when you talk to him or her, and even infants enjoy music and being read to. Talk to your baby whenever you can. Even though he or she won't understand what you're saying, the sound of your voice is reassuring and calming.

Improvements in hearing tests have made newborn hearing screening possible. Many hospitals now routinely test every newborn's hearing. If this testing isn't offered where you give birth, you might want to ask your baby's medical health care provider to refer you to an audiologist for newborn hearing screening. This is particularly important if someone in the family has hearing problems.

Touch

Infants are sensitive to touch and can detect differences in texture, pressure and moisture. They respond quickly to changes in temperature. They may startle when cold air wafts across their skin and become quiet again when they're wrapped warmly. Your touch provides comfort and reassurance to your baby and can rouse a sleepy baby for feeding.

Smell and taste

Infants have a good sense of smell. Even when very young, they can recognize their mother by scent. They may show interest in a new smell by a change in movement or activity. But they easily become familiar with a new smell and no longer react to it.

The sense of taste is closely related to the sense of smell. Although new-borns aren't exposed to many tastes beyond breast milk or formula, research shows that from birth babies prefer sweet tastes over bitter or sour tastes.

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