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Your Baby's Cognitive Development 0-3 months

0 to 3 Months
Give plenty of touch and cuddles – is one of the most important ways to communicate with your baby

Your baby at a glance

Your baby is a keen learner from the start, and will be using all his senses to discover what is going on around him. During this stage you are likely to see your baby:
  • Focusing on objects that are within close visual range
  • Finding out about his world through his senses
  • Turning his head to find out where different sounds are coming from
  • Starting to follow moving objects with her eyes (need to be given enough time to focus and follow, in the beginning in particular)
  • Recognising those closest to him (closest caregivers)
  • Starting to make simple associations (e.g. crying leads to being picked up, and feeding happens on a regular basis).
  • Starting to respond to seeing familiar faces and hearing familiar voices by making sounds and cooing
  • Showing her first smile

Your baby's story

Two babies, one smiling, one cryingYour newborn has all the five senses intact from birth, and they develop rapidly during these first three months. Your baby is investigating and learning from the start.In the beginning he is using all his senses as he sees new things, listens to different sounds, smells new smells, touches different textures, and of course tastes. Through his senses and his movements he will be starting to develop general ideas and learn about what is going on around him. Some associations are starting to be made, such as linking that someone picks him up when he cries and that he can expect food at regular times during the day. Research shows that newborn babies quickly learn to associate with smells e.g. with the mother and mother’s milk. 

From early on your newborn is making eye contact with you, and during these first three months she will start to imitate your facial expressions. When held up close to you, she will look at you and listen carefully to what you are saying. Studies have shown that newborn babies tend to look at the borders, in particular high-contrast borders, of what they see in front of them, for example your hairline or the edge of your face. But already around 2 months, she starts taking more notice of features such as your eyes and mouth. She is learning to identify you and others close to her during this stage, and one day soon she will smile directly at you.

Although research shows that newborn babies see more than we think, and they are born with the means to focus, until about 2 months they can find it hard to focus accurately (too close or too far), not yet having control over the muscles to focus effectively. And the brain areas responsible for vision are immature at birth, which is why your newborn’s vision is blurry.

Touch is important for your baby, and research shows that during the first four months of life, babies are likely to smile and vocalise more when they are held and touched than when only seeing and hearing their parents.

During this stage your baby will begin to turn his head when hearing a sound, and follow objects with his eyes. He will probably enjoy watching moving objects, such as moving toys or brightly coloured objects, as long as they don’t move very fast. In terms of memory, your baby’s long term memory probably covers up to twenty-four hours.

What you can do to support and encourage your baby's development

Your baby is using his senses as he is learning about the world around him. Support his learning during play by helping him see different types of sounds, and feel various textures. Touch is one of the most important ways for you to communicate with your baby, from feeding and nappy change to rocking and walking with him.

Remember to keep things close, and to provide sufficient time for your baby to focus properly on an object. In particular while she is very yong, keep this in mind when you entertain her by moving various objects in front of her. 

Babies learn all the time, and brightly coloured toys or mobiles over your baby’s cot, play mat and changing mat will bring both entertainment and learning. According to recent research, your baby sees colours from about 2 weeks although not yet with the same richness and sensitivity as adult colour vision.  So, she may not distinguish subtle colour differences or paler colours, but will see colour patterns as well as the well-known black and white. Great if you can find patterns that are not too small, and yes contrast is great – either different colours or different brightness.

The contact your baby has with you is the most important activity, and it’s what she loves the most. Give her lots of eye contact, touch, cuddles, and conversations. She will start to imitate your facial expressions, e.g. sticking out her tongue, listening to your voice and responding with gurgles. Talk about what you are doing and sing songs. From about 2 months you may notice that her crying is becoming more differentiated, making it easier for you to recognise what her needs are (e.g. hungry, tired, in pain).

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