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When he's not sleeping, your newborn spends a lot of his time gazing at your face. And there's good reason. First of all, a newborn's eyes focus best at 8 to 12 inches, the distance from your face to his when you cradle him while feeding him. And babies simply prefer looking at faces. "That's probably hardwired in us," says Lise Eliot, PhD, author of What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. "There's a very strong survival value in making eye contact; it evokes the most caregiving." In fact, she adds, because faces are so important, a large part of our brain is dedicated to perceiving, processing, and discriminating among them.
At around 2 months of age, your baby is able to recognize your face and will begin to respond with a smile, says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, author of The Wonder Years: Helping Your Baby and Young Child Successfully Negotiate the Major Developmental Milestones. What's interesting is that babies first learn to recognize a face by the outer features, such as your hair, chin, or head shape; as they get older, they learn to look for inner features, such as eyes, nose, and mouth. So make funny expressions, raise your eyebrows, open your mouth wide, and see how your baby responds.
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