You may have heard stories about babies and toddlers having the uncanny ability to sense their mother’s pregnancy even before knowing about it themselves. Even with limited development, certain studies have highlighted babies with heightened abilities such as empathy and judgment of character. However, is there truth to these tales or are these merely fabrications?
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that babies are able to actually sense pregnancy before you know. For one, babies are still developing their senses, giving them limited capabilities of sensing pregnancy cues. It is also possible that your baby is responding to a change in mood, not necessarily to pregnancy. Lastly, babies will inevitably respond differently to pregnancies.
This article will discuss various facts about the topic and ultimately go over the question: Can babies sense pregnancy before you know?
Can Babies Sense Pregnancy Before You Know?
After taking care of their children for a long time, parents virtually know their children inside out. Thus, there have been cases where parents have noticed their young ones acting strangely. These odd behaviors have occurred frequently enough to be studied by numerous scientists.
For example, a 2016 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) explored the ability of 20-month-old babies to practice metacognition – the scientific term for a “gut feeling.” While it has been previously thought that children develop metacognition later in life, the study suggests that infants may already have this ability from the start.
The ability to have this gut feeling may be responsible for the different stories of babies having the ability to sense things adults cannot. There are even people sharing that their babies are able to sense earthquakes a few seconds before they happen.
So, does this mean that babies can sense pregnancy before you know? Unfortunately, it seems like a lack of evidence points toward the negative. While some pregnant mothers sense their babies and toddlers acting oddly, this might be a case of correlation – not causation.
Facts to Know
Baby Senses are Still Developing
While all babies already come out of the womb with the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), their senses have not yet fully developed. Though babies can do much with the senses they have, their limited ability to perceive the world around them may be a valuable indicator that they are not equipped to sense whether or not their mother is pregnant.
Of the various senses infants have, the stronger ones include taste, smell, and touch. For example, babies can familiarize themselves with their mother’s scent. In fact, it has been studied that the mother’s scent can be used to help babies bond with other people.
Taste is also a sense that babies excel at. It is said that babies have about 30,000 tastebuds – significantly way more than adults do. In fact, people lose tastebuds as they age. This is the reason why babies love baby food while adults find baby food bland.
While the other senses are going through rapid development, eyesight seems to be the slowest to develop in infants. When babies are born, they are only able to focus within close ranges (approximately 8-10 inches). Infant vision is also believed to be blurry. It takes the first 2-3 years for an infant to develop their vision to 20/20.
Babies Can Sense Moods
Although pregnancy is primarily signified by physical changes (e.g., bloating, enlargement of breasts, etc.), pregnancy also comes with mood changes. The flux of emotions is typically attributed to the cascade of hormones running through a pregnant woman’s body.
Hormones primarily attributed to mood swings are progesterone and estrogen. While the hormones are necessary for pregnancy, they can cause women to experience a range of emotions. Even without the hormones, pregnancy can already be an incredibly emotional experience – the hormones simply exacerbate the feelings.
As previously mentioned, the five senses of infants are still developing. However, these senses are merely equipment for sensory input. The information being received by these senses still have to be analyzed by a cognitive mind. While babies still think in abstract forms, their brains can already analyze concepts similar to adults. In fact, it has been studied that babies are able to gauge emotions and moods through vocal cues and inflections.
Now, given that babies can be very perceptive about the moods of people around them, it is possible that babies are responding to a pregnant woman’s mood swings – not the pregnancy itself. This is another case of correlation being mistaken as causation.
Babies Respond Differently to Pregnancies
Some mothers suspect their children are able to sense their pregnancy due to odd behavior. However, odd behavior can probably mean other things. Even if babies and toddlers are able to sense pregnancy in a woman, they still respond differently from one another.
For example, babies and toddlers informed of their mother’s pregnancy can behave vastly differently. Some can get clingy. Some can get aggressive. Some can get frustrated. Older children can have a wider range of emotions as they learn how to process such big news. These emotions can include confusion, jealousy, insecurity, and more.
All these different behaviors and responses are normal for children learning about such news. Children are often more prone to struggle with their emotions as they have yet to learn how to deal and cope with such strong emotions.
This is why it is important to approach the matter delicately when telling your baby or toddler about your pregnancy. While they are indeed very young, it is important to have a discussion with them to let them understand what’s going on.
Although it would make for good stories hearing about babies having the uncanny ability to sense pregnancy in their own mother before they themselves know it, the lack of evidence suggests that the anecdotes might not be grounded in science.
Babies have been extensively studied to have a high level of empathy that can cause them to respond to various triggers. The stories about them being able to sense pregnancies might be rooted in moments where people mistakenly associated their baby’s odd behaviors with them being able to know about their mother’s pregnancy.