2.2 What are babies able to do?
The extract below is from a book written by UK child development teachers Carolyn Meggitt and Gerald Sunderland. It summarises what the majority of babies less than a week old are capable of.
Read through the extract once. Print the PDF, then, using the list of beliefs about babies’ limitations from Activity 1, write the number beside any statement below which you think disproves it. We have made a start with point (1) for you.
From this extract you can see the range of things babies are capable of. In contrast with the statements you considered in Activity 1, you can see that babies have very sensitive skin, they are startled by sudden noises and they respond to the sight of faces, light and high-contrasting patterns. In fact, not only do they have a responsive sense of sight and sound, but they also have a sensitive sense of smell, recognising their own mother's breast. What is also interesting is that babies are beginning to communicate and interact through facial expressions, noises and movements which are made in response to the actions of other people.
The examples in the extract above are taken from children (most likely white) brought up in UK cultural traditions. In traditions where babies are kept close to the mother all day and can drink milk when they need to, they may hardly cry at all. Eye contact may also not be encouraged.
So far we have been looking at what ‘most’ or ‘typical’ babies can do, but just as adults are all different, so are babies. In the next section, you will read about the experiences of one family responding to the arrival of an individual baby into the world.