Many years ago, a co-worker made a funny revelation about her baby's developing sense of sight. "I always think she's looking at me, but then I move away and she's still staring at that same spot," said the new mom. During those first weeks, the newborn seemed to show the same level of interest in her mom's appearance and the blank wall behind her. With these experiences in mind, how does your baby know you're its mom? Even as your little one's senses are still developing and adapting to the world, you can rest assured that your kid can tell mom apart from other people. And blank walls.
First, your baby is able to hone in on the sound of your voice. In fact, infants may notice their mothers' speaking voice before they're even born. As explained in a 2013 issue of Acta Paediatricia, newborn infants seem to perceive a difference between their mother's native tongue and the sound of other languages, and they appear to be more attracted to the sounds of mom's language. Chances are, your little one is listening attentively to the sound of your words several weeks before birth. What's more, your individual voice is distinct to your baby as well. As a 2003 study in Psychological Science revealed, infants who listened to a recording of their mother's voice experienced an increased heart rate, whereas infants who listened to a recording of a stranger's voice experienced a decreased heart rate. Basically, your baby finds your voice totally unique.
Scent also plays a big role in your baby's ability to recognize you. Although some of your infant's senses still need time to develop, that sense of smell is already pretty great by the time your baby is born. As explained in a 2009 article from Communicative & Integrative Biology, infants show a preference for clothes worn by their mothers (as opposed to strangers), and even newborn babies have an inborn response to seek out the scent of mom's breast milk. Your unique smell tells your baby a lot about you.
Lastly, your baby can recognize you by sight. Well, to an extent. According to the American Optometric Association, most newborns are only able to focus on objects about 8 to 10 inches away from them. Coincidentally, this is usually the distance to your your face when you're holding the baby, so your face may well be one of the first things your little one really sees. It's yet another way the developing senses make sure your kid recognizes mom.