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Sensory Needs of Infants

Newborn babies learn about the world through sensory experiences and parental guidance. In thinking about all your infant’s sensory needs, consider that sensory input can calm or stimulate your infant. If you want to soothe or calm your infant, the notion of “recreating the womb space” would be best. For example, white noise or a rhythmic sound like a heartbeat; a dark room or dimmed lighting; the deep touch pressure provided by swaddling; bouncing or swaying movement; and finally, sucking a pacifier, your finger or their own thumb.

If you want to provide sensory input that stimulates and enriches your infant’s development, think variety. Touching is a key sense for infants. Books and toys that have rough, smooth, bumpy and crinkly parts are great to use. For all babies, infant massage has many benefits.Just simply being held has tremndous benefits.

 Movement is a struggle for some infants, while some crave it, others are frightened by it. Rocking, bouncing and swinging are all activities that can be introduced gradually to help overcome sensitivity to movement. Wearing or carrying your baby while going for walks or doing light chores can provide movement, deep touch pressure and sound (your heartbeat) all together!

Infants also need a variety of visuals to look at. Infants respond to bold patterns and bright colors at first. Point things out in your home, the community or in nature. People’s faces are another fascination for babies. Hold your baby's gaze during feeding time and speak softly to capture her attention.

Music and singing can be combined with all of the above activities. White noise or ocean waves are soothing while drums and high-pitched sounds are alerting. Mimic your baby’s sounds back to them to encourage language development. By combining sensory inputs you are further enhancing their development. However, recognize that "multi-sensory” input can be too much for infant’s that are sensitive or at certain times of the day (i.e. when tired or hungry).

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