Guide to Your Newborn's Senses

Discovery comes from tasting, smelling, touching, and more.

Smell and Taste

Have you ever looked down into your newborn's face and wondered what goes on in her world? Can she smell the flowers that bloom in your garden? Is she soothed by the touch of your hands? Is she excited when she hears music? The answer to each is a resounding yes, of course. With the exception of sight, babies arrive in the world with most of their senses fairly well developed. Their sensory experiences, in fact, start long before they enter the world outside the womb.

These early experiences are far more than practice hearing or tasting -- they're how your baby gets to know you and begins to form a strong parent-child bond. Read on to find out what your baby is experiencing in her new world.

The Nose Knows

At birth, babies are already veteran sniffers, as the olfactory senses are mature by the end of the first trimester. Amniotic fluid takes on the odor of everything you eat and drink, so in utero, your baby smells -- and acquires a preference for -- the scents of everything you eat. Studies of French mothers who drank a sweet anise-flavored beverage during pregnancy found that their babies had a clear preference for the scent of anise after birth, while babies whose moms did not drink anise showed an aversion or neutral response to the scent.

Babies like sweet smells, but lemon is also a favorite. But it's the smell of Mom herself that newborns love most. One study found that just one day after birth, babies preferred breast pads worn by their lactating moms to those of another lactating woman. Babies are very attracted to their mother's unadorned body smell -- so don't worry about the occasional skipped shower. Your baby will actually appreciate it!

A Matter of Taste

Eight weeks after conception, your baby is beginning to develop taste buds. By 14 weeks, baby's taste buds are mature, and she samples all of Mom's favorite foods by swallowing amniotic fluid. Long before she takes her first sips of formula or breast milk, she begins to enjoy the sweet flavor of ice cream or savory richness of pizza. At birth, babies relish sweet flavors above others, a natural preference that ensures a penchant for the sweet taste of breast milk. As with the sense of smell, your baby is likely to prefer familiar flavors -- namely those you ate during pregnancy. So if you craved carrot soup and baked squash, you may raise a veggie lover! In another study of infant taste preferences, babies whose mothers drank carrot juice while pregnant and nursing enjoyed carrot-flavored cereal more than babies whose mothers did not.

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