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Updated: Feb 18, 2022

In our first journal we look at when sensory development occurs in a newborn and how we can use a particular sense to aid in calming and comforting our baby.

“Children’s learning is ongoing and each child will progress towards the outcomes in different and equally meaningful ways. Learning is not always predictable and linear."(Early Years Learning Framework, p.19)

Babies have seven senses: touch, taste, smell, auditory, visual, movement ( vestibular ) and body position (proprioception). It is through babies sensing organs associated with each sense that send information to their brain to help them learn and perceive the world around them. Senses are how babies explore and make sense of their worlds.

Sensory development begins during pregnancy and continues throughout childhood. Parents and caregivers can help babies to develop these senses actively through providing safe and stimulating environments for discovery. Sensory exploration is important for babies / infants development allowing them to engage in their environment and gain control over their bodies and its capabilities. Without thinking adults use their senses to process information and to make decisions, we use these senses to relate to and connect with others.

Here's some examples;


Touch otherwise known as tactile sense, play a vital role in how our baby bonds and communicates with us. It’s developed in the womb as early as the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy. Babies are very tuned into their sense of touch as a newborn. Your touch will not only soothe and relax them, but enhance their growth and comfort level. The sense of touch helps babies to navigate their surrounding, different objects and temperatures. Babies are comforted by touch and this touch whether when feeding or settling allows them to feel safe and secure.

It is important for adults to understand what types of touch a specific infant needs. As an example a baby who falls asleep being held may like the firmness of being touched, so wrapping this baby may help it to settle. The firm pressure relaxes excited neurons that are sending messages back and forth from the surface of the skin to the brain.


A baby's sense of taste starts developing in the womb and at nine weeks they already have the tiniest taste buds along with a fully formed mouth and tongue. Babies taste their first flavours inside the womb through the amniotic fluid. As a newborn their sense of taste is highly developed.

Your baby's taste buds that differentiate between salty, sweet, sour and bitter are developed at birth.


Sense of smell is closely connected to the sense of taste. This is due to the fact that babies not only taste the foods you eat through the amniotic fluid but smell them as well. Just like taste, as a newborn, their sense of smell is also highly developed. The smells they come across on a daily basis become familiar, like the smell of their primary caregiver can be calming and increase their sense of security.

This means you can use your baby’s sense of smell to soothe them when nothing else seems to work. The smell of lavender or even your scent can be soothing because of its familiarity. Babies can also sense whether they are in a particular place by using their sense of smell.


The movement sensation is known as vestibular system. The vestibular system involves one's balance and motion and works in conjunction with other senses. The vestibular system allows us to coordinate our movement. When we sway a baby to a calm state they are also learning about where their body is in relation to their environment.

Stimulating the vestibular system also develops muscle tone because it teaches a baby which muscles to stabilise in order to keep their body balanced in different positions, such as rolling over.


A baby’s hearing starts developing in the womb. Babies can hear sounds from inside the womb around 23 weeks. At 35 weeks all parts of the ear are completely formed. After birth a baby's hearing will continue to develop. They will startle at loud noises and calm at soft gentle noises.

Infants demonstrate this sense by turning their head or eyes toward a sound. Newborns are more likely to respond to a parents soft soothing voice. The key with babies is to use repetition and longer duration, this increases the likelihood of infants hearing and responding to a sound. Adults can encourage infant hearing through musical toys that use repetitive sounds.


The visual system begins to develop around the ninth and tenth week of gestation and continues developing until three years after birth. At birth infants are able to detect motion and can see an object about 20-30cm away, are sensitive to brightness and may detect light and dark but they can not see all colours. Babies prefer direct eye contact as a form of communication with their primary care giver. They sometimes may even look cross eyed. Their vision is blurred but as the months go by the vision is developing and colours are more clear and they are able to focus and track objects better.


The seventh sense, body position sense, or proprioception, works in conjunction with other senses. Proprioception is the movement and position of the limbs and body in relation to space. Proprioceptors are located in muscles and joints and are triggered by bodily movements. Proprioceptors, combined with vision, the sense of touch and input from the vestibular system, help infants reach such milestones as rolling over, crawling, and walking.

If you need more information relating to your baby/infant needs we recommend you seek advice from a medical professional.

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