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How does a newborn baby recognize their mother?

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Motherhood is an incredibly powerful experience, but it can also be a confusing one.

Have you ever wondered why babies cry when they’re hungry or how newborn babies recognize their mothers? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind these phenomena.

Newborn babies begin recognizing their mother’s voice even before birth. A mother can speak to her child while still in the womb, and this communication occurs during the seventh and eighth months of pregnancy.

In addition to recognizing their mother’s voice, newborn babies can also recognize their mother’s natural scent and react to it. This scent is not a result of perfume, but rather the unique smell of the mother herself. After being in contact with their mother, babies can easily identify her scent.

For instance, one of my friends had a cesarean delivery with her firstborn child. Immediately after giving birth, the midwives took the baby to dress them up, causing the baby to cry. However, the baby immediately stopped crying once they were reunited with their mother.

Newborn babies can recognize their mothers just after birth. During this period, they can gaze at their mother for an hour before they sleep.

Although some researchers’ findings show that newborns cannot accommodate long-distance objects, newborns can discriminate different things under suitable conditions, just like adults.

Babies can recognize the gender of other babies, regardless of clothing. Some studies show that a newborn baby can track objects as adults do. For example, newborn babies gaze at their mothers and cry when their mother leaves.”

When does a baby recognize their names?

Language development occurs between 10 and 18 months of age, during which the word count helps assess and understand expressive skills and the ability to communicate ideas effectively.

Although a newborn may possess everyday language, they may fail to speak. For example, a child who is deaf may have high intelligence but may be unable to communicate through speech, while a child with autism may speak but not use language effectively.

Infant language development is divided into three stages:

  • Pre-speech
  • Naming
  • Word combination


Pre-speech begins from 0 to 10 months. At around three months, the baby starts vocalizing when they hear an adult speak. You will find them most of the time keenly listening to what an adult is saying and then mimicking them.

At around six months, the baby starts babbling and soon begins to imitate conversations. They will vocalize terms such as “mama” and “dada,” which their parents interpret as actual words, motivating them to keep learning.


Naming is the period between 10 and 18 months. At this stage, the baby understands that people and objects have names and labels, respectively. The infant begins to use names such as “mama” and “dada” appropriately after being reinforced by their parents.

By 12 months, some infants can understand over 100 words and follow simple signals and gestures. During this stage, the baby recognizes their name and other people’s names.

Word combination

This is the period between 18 and 24 months. After pronouncing their first words, the baby starts to combine words, such as “mommy cup,” when referring to being given a cup by their mother. For example, an infant may point to a “mommy’s spoon” instead of saying “spoon.”

During this stage, a stranger can understand 50% of what the infant is trying to communicate.

Can a newborn feel love?

Love can be classified into three categories: romantic love, attachment love, and compassionate love. Romantic love is the intense feeling of affection that one feels towards their significant other.

Attachment love is the deep and lasting bond that develops between a parent and a child or between close friends. Compassionate love is the altruistic feeling of care and concern for others’ well-being.

This question is closely tied to attachment love, which is critical for an infant’s healthy development.

Attachment love is the foundation for building positive social and emotional relationships later in life. It is a bond that develops over time between an infant and their primary caregiver, usually the mother.

Research has shown that attachment love begins to form even before a child is born. During pregnancy, a mother’s body releases hormones like oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, that helps create a bond between the mother and the fetus.

After birth, the mother’s interaction with her newborn plays a vital role in shaping the attachment bond.

Newborns communicate their needs through nonverbal cues. They hear, see, and touch to convey their needs to their caregivers.

Although they cannot express their emotions in words, they can experience different feelings.

Newborns primarily experience pleasure, which they derive from being held, touched, and cared for by their caregivers. They enjoy being fed, bathed, and cuddled.

This pleasure release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This release of dopamine reinforces positive feelings and strengthens the attachment bond between the caregiver and the infant.

Newborns can also experience negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness. They may cry when they are hungry, uncomfortable, or in pain.

When newborns experience negative emotions, they release stress hormones like cortisol, which can be harmful to their development if they are exposed to high levels for extended periods.

Studies have shown that a newborn’s brain responds differently to positive and negative emotions.

When newborns experience positive emotions like pleasure, their brain’s reward centers are activated, releasing dopamine and reinforcing positive feelings.

On the other hand, when they experience negative emotions, their brain’s stress response system is activated, releasing cortisol and causing feelings of anxiety and fear.

The caregiver’s response to a newborn’s needs and emotions plays a vital role in shaping the attachment bond.

When caregivers respond promptly and appropriately to a newborn’s needs, it reinforces positive feelings and strengthens the attachment bond.

On the other hand, when caregivers are unresponsive or neglectful, it can lead to negative emotions, weaken the attachment bond, and cause long-term emotional and social problems.

Can a newborn baby get confused about who their mom is?

newborn recognize their mother

Yes, many newborn babies can get confused if they are adopted and do not have the time to create a bond with their mothers.

Children can recognize their mothers through their bond, voice, scent, breastfeeding and affection during birth.

However, if a baby is adopted just after birth and never grows with their mother, they quickly get confused about their biological mother.

Do babies get confused if a mother and a nanny raise them simultaneously?

It is rare for children to get confused; however, it depends. Most children bond more with the nannies than their mothers since they spend a lot of time with them, bringing confusion on who raised them.

They learn different cultures from their nannies as compared to their mothers. They also end up loving their nanny more than their mothers.

Ways for kids to bond with their parents

newborn recognize their mother

Have time with your kids

Spending time with your kids is always good because it creates that bond between you and your kids. They feel loved and thus can share any problem they are experiencing.

Do not see them as a burden.

Always treat them with love and care. For example, take them for a ride or let them accompany you whenever you go shopping or to grocery stores.

Prove to them that you are their parents

Show them love and affection. Let them understand that you are there for them. Love them and keep communication open. For example, many children can develop a mental illness due to the parent not having time with them.


Much of what we believe about newborns traditionally is false. Newborn babies are not simple but complex beings with highly advanced thoughts. They sense smell, hear, taste, and even sleep as adults.    

That’s the end of today’s article; if you have any questions, don’t forget to post them in the comment section below.


Chamberlain, David B. (David Barnes),1928 – [ Babies remember birth] The mind of your newborn baby/David Chamberlain

Dr. Pierrette Poinsett, M.D., board certified pediatrician and medical consultant for MomLovesBest

Vasudevi Reddy is Professor of Developmental and Cultural Psychology at the University of Portsmouth

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