As a parent, one of the greatest gifts is experiencing the world anew through your little one’s eyes. If you are blessed to have a child with healthy vision at birth, you will certainly delight in them opening their eyes to you for the first time. And even though baby’s sense of sight is at first one of the least developed senses, B&W visual stimulation can have a pivotal impact on the way they grow.
Baby’s Senses at Birth
Shortly after entering the world, baby can already recognise your voice, feel comforted by your touch, smell your unique scent and taste whatever goes into its mouth. Even though baby’s eyes are already 65% of their grown-up size at birth, the capacity of sight is one of the least developed senses at first. The experts tell us that it’s normal for baby not to be able to focus (“accommodate”) right away, since nerve cells in their brain and retina are not yet fully developed, and they can see only about 30cm away at first.
However, studies have shown that a newborn baby prefers looking at its mother’s face as opposed to that of a stranger, most likely because it is reacting to large, high-contrast stimuli – this being the contrast between the forehead and hairline. Therefore, not that you would, but kindly refrain from drastically changing your hairstyle after giving birth!
Basically, baby’s world is a black, white and grey one at first. You may delight in the beautiful colours of hospital room bouquets and balloons or the carefully chosen pastel hues of your nursery, but for your little angel all these nuances are still one big blur. The ability to distinguish colour does develop quite quickly though, and after only a week they may be able to see yellow, orange, red and green. Interestingly, blue takes a bit longer since it has shorter wavelengths, as fewer colour receptors exist in the human retina for blue light.
How To Stimulate Vision
When one is new to the world of all things baby, you may think your choice of colour scheme for the nursery can be purely one of personal taste. Imagine your surprise when you realise that all the gorgeous monochrome designs out there are not just a fad, but that B&W visual stimulation can actually make a big impact on your little one’s development!
Research has shown that black and white contrasts register very strongly on a baby’s retina and send the strongest visual signals to the baby’s brain. Consequently, the stronger the visual signals are, the faster baby’s vision develops. Dr Sears even goes as far as to assert that you might as well blindfold a baby when you surround them with only pastel colours. The experts tell us that the best way you as a parent can stimulate your baby’s vision is by using black and white patterns or light and dark contrasting colours in as much of the baby’s environment as possible.
We’ve learnt that baby can only see about 30cm away at first, so whatever visual stimuli you wish to introduce, make sure to keep it within baby’s field of visual access. At this point, though, it’s important to remember our grandmothers’ advice not to overstimulate a baby and expect too much too soon – take baby steps, as it were…
So as soon as baby can hold its head comfortably, it’s a good idea to put them on their tummies to assist in growing the little body’s strength and coordination. You can make this exercise doubly valuable if you place them on a surface of contrasting black and white, and will definitely be transfixed and intrigued for what seems like ages. Of course, always take care to not let baby fall asleep on its tummy!
B&W Visual Stimulation Ideas
As for a B&W surface, there are plenty of trendy cot bedding options coming from proudly South African designer brands like Bunni, Fox & Moon, Phlo Studio and Kideroo. And make no mistake, a monochrome colour scheme does not preclude cute. What can be more scrumptious than a crisp white cotton background decorated with black feathers, trees, cactuses or even bats and lightning bolts! Themed scatter cushions are similarly inventive nowadays, and you’ll easily find a sleepy cloud or cute kitty cat to tickle mommy’s fancy while contributing to your little one’s visual delight.
However, if you are a traditionalist and still prefer those calming blues or delicious pinks to decorate your nursery, another clever way of bringing black and white into your baby’s world is with a black and white toy, such as a rattle. As soon as baby can grab their delightful little fox or penguin rattle independently, it will be an enchantment to their senses as they can see, taste and listen to their new little B&W friend.
Visual Stimulation Tricks
Your choice of wardrobe may well be one of the last things on your mind after giving birth, but if you really want to take your little one’s visual stimulation seriously, you can also make sure to wear contrasting colours or striped tops!
Another clever trick for visual stimulation is to make sure you keep your baby’s environment interesting by simply changing the position of the cradle or feeding them from both sides to help develop their sight in all directions and angles.
It may seem like baby’s first few weeks are spent mostly sleeping and eating, and (inevitably) crying! You may well find that you savour those moments when your little one is quietly awake, looking at your face and listening to your voice. This in itself is valuable to both of you for the sheer sake of mother-to-child bonding. But if you make sure your face is close enough to baby, you will find that they start focusing on your eyes, and can soon enough follow you around as you move.
As a parent, you embark on a lifelong journey of discovery with the little life you helped to create. By stimulating their senses as best you can with the means at your disposal, you will know that you are offering them their greatest chance at experiencing the world and all its marvels.
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