Baby Senses Development
How Do Babies Develop Their Senses?
During the 40 weeks a baby spends developing in his or her mother’s womb, a lot more than just physical development takes place. Beginning at a very early gestational age, babies begin eagerly sensing the world around them in addition to busying themselves with physical adaptations to function after birth.
Fetal Sensory Development Stages: Sight
The eyes transmit information to the brain via nerve cells, just like other organs involved in our five senses, such as the nose and ears. Here’s how the sense of sight develops inside the womb.
Image source: iStock
Baby Vision Development: Week 4
Two optic nerves, one on each side of the head, are starting to form during the fourth week of pregnancy thanks to cells from the growing brain tissue. From the eyes to the brain and vice versa, information will be transmitted by these dense bundles of millions of individual nerve fibres.
At the same time, other cells begin to transform into the eye’s lens, which will aid your baby in focusing on both nearby and faraway objects.
Baby Vision Development: Week 8
The eye structure becomes even more intricate about a month later (around week 8 of pregnancy). It has started to form the retina, the layer of cells at the back of the eye that detects and perceives light.
Baby Vision Development: Week 16
Your baby’s eyesight has developed to the point where he can begin to detect light by week 16. Even though his eyelids are still closed, his eyes can move slightly to one side in response to it.
A baby’s eyes begin to “see” light around week 16, but their peepers aren’t recognisable (as we know them) until around week 20.
Baby Vision Development: Week 22
He will be able to sense the movement of bright lights outside your body even though there isn’t much to see in the womb. From week 22 on, if you shine a flashlight on your expanding belly, you might get a kick or a wiggle in return.
Baby Vision Development: Week 26 to 28
Between weeks 26 and 28, the eyes open for the first time; they do so most frequently beginning at about 32 weeks into a pregnancy. Because vision development is so difficult, a lot of it continues after birth.
A foetus can still see inside the womb, though. Although they occasionally react (with a flutter of activity) to bright sources of light like the sun or a flashlight pointed at a woman’s belly, their vision is rather blurry.
Your baby’s eyes will be able to sense light, open, and even blink when he is awake by around week 28.
What does it look like inside the womb?
Imagine yourself inside a sizable, dense, red balloon filled with water. A good (and more realistic) example would be a flashlight shining through your cheek and producing a dull red glow.
Fetal Sensory Development Stages: Hearing
Week of pregnancy
The embryo’s cells are starting to form the baby’s face, brain, nose, ears, and eyes.
There are indentions where the baby’s ears will develop.
Baby begins to pick up sound.
Baby’s hearing is more sensitive.
Baby begins to respond to noise/voices in the womb.
Fetus’ Hearing Development: First Trimester
The cells inside your little embryo’s developing head are already starting to arrange themselves into particular tissues that will eventually become her brain, face, eyes, ears, and nose around week 6 of pregnancy, even though she is still smaller than a pea.
In the second month of your pregnancy, the structure that will eventually become your baby’s eyes and ears starts to take shape. At that point, the cells within the developing embryo start to arrange themselves to form the face, brain, nose, eyes, and ears.
Around 9 weeks, your baby’s neck side begins to show small indentations as the ears continue to develop both internally and externally. These indentations will eventually start to move upward before becoming what you will recognise as your baby’s ears.
Fetus’ Hearing Development: Second Trimester
Your unborn child’s ears continue to grow throughout your first and second trimesters. The tiny bones of the middle ear, which detect the vibration of sound waves, are formed when the neurons in the brain that process sound communicates with the inner ear.
Your unborn child hears their first sounds around week 18 of pregnancy. Those tiny ears are already developing quickly at 24 weeks. As the weeks go by, your baby will become even more sensitive to sound.
Around this time in your pregnancy, your baby can only hear a few noises that you might not even be aware of. They are your body’s sounds. Your baby can hear your heartbeat, the air leaving and entering your lungs, your stomach grumbling, and even the sound of blood flowing through the umbilical cord.
When Can Babies Hear In The Womb?
Image source: iStock
Although every baby, mother, and pregnancy are unique, by week 16 the majority of a fetus’ inner ear structures have developed, enabling it to hear sound.
The “record” light is turned on in the baby studio at 24 weeks, when the cochlea, eardrum, ossicles, and other vital ear structures are fully developed.
From that point forward, growing babies can easily hear their mothers breathing, eating, walking, talking, exercising, burping, and gurgling their stomachs.
This might shed some light on why noise is so soothing to infants. Some evidence even suggests that while still developing inside the mother, babies pick up on and respond to her voice.
What does it sound like inside the womb?
Since sound travels best through open space, you can hear someone yelling more clearly in an open field than, for example, when your head is submerged in water in a pool.
Additionally, while your baby is still developing inside of you, she is not exposed to the outside world because of the amniotic sac, which contains the amniotic fluid, as well as all the layers of your body. The sounds she hears in utero are therefore muffled even when her ears are fully developed.
Put your hand over your mouth to experiment with it. Have your companion soon follow. then carry on a dialogue. That is roughly how voices appear to your unborn child when they are in the womb. You’ll observe that while you can distinguish the tones and pitches of a sentence, you might have trouble understanding certain words.
Similar to this, if you try singing a song while covering your mouth, the melody will be heard clearly, but the lyrics won’t.
Of course, the louder the sound, the more likely it is that your baby will hear it. Quiet background music will not be as distinct as a barking dog, honking horn, or wailing siren, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The sounds your adorable baby becomes accustomed to while still inside you will be less likely to startle her once she is born.
Fetal Sensory Development Stages: Touch
Is touch the infant’s first sense to develop?
Yes, beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy, touch begins to develop as your baby’s first sense. Touch receptors grow on your baby’s body throughout the following months while they are still inside of you.
When you are 11 weeks pregnant, your baby starts to move very slightly. Your baby will make these first explorations as they move around and feel their surroundings and bodies. Your baby can feel a wide variety of sensations by the middle of the third trimester, including heat, cold, pressure, and pain.
Image source: iStock
How does the fetus’ sense of touch develop?
The development of your baby’s sense of touch starts while they are still in the womb and continues throughout their first year and beyond.
By week 7 or 8, your baby’s sense of touch has begun to form. Babies are capable of experiencing a wide variety of sensations, including changes in temperature and pain, even before they are born.
When can a fetus feel pain?
A developing foetus does not experience pain the same way you do, even when he can detect a light touch. That necessitates not only touch receptors but also the brain’s required molecules and processing pathways for pain signals. It takes at least 24 weeks of pregnancy for the brain’s structures and neural connections to fully develop before a person can feel pain.
A foetus cannot feel pain just because the necessary physical structures are present. Till the end of the third trimester, the intricate neural circuitry required to distinguish between normal touch and painful touch is still developing.
Sensory Development After Birth
We may be able to start influencing a baby’s postnatal development based on the mother’s external sensory environment during pregnancy because there is evidence of early in utero sensory development.
By changing variables like maternal food intake or the choice of background music, we would achieve this. The majority of a baby’s sensory development will still take place after birth, though.
Therefore, even though we can start shaping development at a young age, the most significant sensory stimulation will still happen after the baby is born!
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