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A Newborn Can do That!?

Updated: Aug 26, 2021


Your Amazing Newborn is a must read for all expecting parents. It’s one of the most informative books I’ve read on the intricacies of a developing fetus and how all of their senses while in the womb begin to develop in preparation for birth and adaptation to their world outside of their comfort zone. It’s interesting to note that the fetus makes emotional connections to its mother while inside the womb by the sounds of her voice and how a certain biochemical process between mother and the developing fetus takes place months before birth in which the mother’s stress levels affect the fetus’ temperament. The authors Marshall and Phyllis Klaus have gathered some of the most comprehensive and research-based information on newborns and their behaviors all of which are very well portrayed in the book and captured through the many beautiful photos strewn throughout the book. What many first-time parents would find very intriguing and interesting in this book is how a normal full-term newborn placed on his or her mother’s belly immediately after birth can instinctually make its way to the breast by crawling slowly and latching on to feed. The newborn has an inborn ability to do this through its sense of smell from the amniotic fluid on his/her hands that mimics similar scents given off by the glands in the mother’s areola. The book also details Dr. Fantz’s observations of how infants prefer certain visual sights over others and can recognize their mother’s face as early as four hours after birth. How amazing is that! A full-term normal newborn in the right circumstances goes into a quiet alert state within the first hour, in which the baby stares wide-eyed into his or her mother’s face and eyes, demonstrating its ability to communicate with his or her mother. As a mother of five, I clearly remember the joy of feeling that first connection with my babies soon after birth as they gazed into my eyes with such intense wonder and curiosity, quietly checking me out for what seemed to go on for hours. It’s the ultimate mother-baby bonding moment in that first hour or so that sets the stage for greater attachment in the coming months. The book describes some very intriguing research by Child Psychiatrist Peter Wolff, Psychologist Heinz Prechtl, and renowned Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. Their research captured some very interesting behaviors of newborns that all normal, full-term infants exhibit; specifically, how newborns go through six different sleep-wake cycles, two sleep states which are quiet sleep and active sleep, and three awake states which are quiet alert, active alert, and crying state, and the drowsiness state which is a transitional state between sleep and awake cycles. Without going into detail, I suggest that all expecting parents read the book and learn more about these cycles to help them best care for their baby. The photos in the book are wonderful examples of these cycles and demonstrate them beautifully. The book goes on to explain not only a newborns’ keen sense of smell but also its sense of sight (which is limited to 8-10 inches from his face), and its sense of hearing, touch and taste and its ability to communicate or respond to its environment through these senses. Studies have demonstrated a newborn’s interest in symmetrical faces over faces scrambled by computer graphics and many other visual preferences such as red colors, circles and stripes and contrasting patterns, and moving objects held close to their face. During his or her quiet alert state, a baby will stare at its mother’s face and reach out to touch her face! An infant reacts to sounds and will turn their head toward the sound. Experiments have demonstrated that infants can be taught to turn their head towards certain sounds like a small bell and not to other sounds, like a buzzer, by giving them sugar water only after turning towards the bell sounds, thus programming, or conditioning a certain outcome. How fascinating is that! Opportunities abound for parents to bond with their newborns and to engage with them through these senses during their quiet alert states. Through attachment and bonding, parents learn to become familiar with their infants’ cues and desires and are thereby able to better attend to their needs and begin to enjoy interacting with them. An experiment performed by Dr. Anthony DeCasper conditioned one to two-day old infants in the quiet alert state to demonstrate their response to a high-pitched voice compared to a lower-pitched voice by letting the infant hear a recording of a woman’s higher pitched voice every time the infant sucked at a faster rate and when the infant sucked at a slower rate, it would be given a recording of a lower voice. Most infants in this experiment learned that the speed of their sucking rate controlled what pitch voice they heard and 90% of them demonstrated a preference for the higher pitch voice. Through these ingenious experiments Doctors are discovering the many capabilities of newborn babies and their ability to connect with their caregivers and their environment. The book goes on to illustrate how newborns respond to touch and respond to certain reflex-induced stimuli such as the Babkin reflex in which an infant opens his/her mouth in response to a squeeze on their palms. The rooting reflex is where the baby opens his/her mouth and turns to one side indicating that he/she is hungry and ready to feed. It has been noted through time-lapse photography that a baby’s movements during the active-alert state follow a pattern of no movement for 75 minutes or so, then a sudden burst of movement and lastly some quiet moments of stillness. This cycle repeats every one to two minutes while the newborn is in the active alert state. This book illustrates the many ways in which baby and mother communicate by various expressions and emotions. Very early on, babies begin to imitate their mother’s expressions. They are capable of imitating sad, happy and surprised expressions and amazingly enough they will stick out their tongue at you if you do it to them. Now isn’t that truly amazing! These intimate moments of mirroring what they see works best when adults first imitate baby’s facial expressions, thus helping them with their self-awareness. The authors dedicate an entire chapter specifically for families that have chosen to adopt a baby and gives valuable information and proven ways to connect with and bond with an adopted child. This book closes with the final chapter’s discussion about a baby’s developmental psychology, infant behavior and development and building secure attachments and independence and the changes that both parents feel emotionally as they learn to transition into becoming parents. Understanding these early relationships and changing emotions and how they influence each other can make all the difference in the way that parents respond to their infant and their changing emotions and responsibilities.





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