According to recent research, young infants will struggle to pick out their mum from a lineup unless they get a glimpse of her facing directly towards them—not from the side. And the findings are not as inconsequential as they sound.
Researchers analysed a group of babies for the first three to eight months of life outside the womb, and noticed that while adults and children have little difficulty recognising faces from varying perspectives, young babies were not the same—even when it came to their primary caregiver.
“The brain activity of babies tells us if they recognise a face,” says Dr Hiroko Ichikawa from Tokyo University of Science. “Responses to profile faces were weak at three months of age,” Dr Ichikawa explains, “but increased more during the period from three to eight months of age compared with those of frontal faces.”
The research revealed that around five-and-a-half months is when babies begin to identify their mother via the profile view.
So what is the significance of these findings?
In short, the study gives insight into the maternal-child bonding process; our babies need us to grant them our full attention, and while this isn’t physically possible every moment of the day, when it is, it’s important we put away distraction that would turn our face from them (like our smartphones).
“Lately mobile phones have become popular, and we are aware of it every moment,” says co-study author Professor Ryusuke Kakigi.
“Mothers caring for their babies are no exception. However, younger babies do not recognise the face in profile. When we communicate with younger babies, we should look straight at the babies’ faces.”
The takeaway? Instagram and emails can wait—your baby will never love your face as much as this moment right now.