You hear your baby wake from her nap, and you walk toward her room. She’s lying in her crib cooing, then suddenly, as you walk into the room, she stops—and your first thought is, “She’s not happy that I’m here.”

If you’ve had that reaction, you’re not the only one who has. Many parents who have a blind or visually impaired baby have had similar feelings. What’s probably happening is that your baby has stopped making sounds in order to listen and figure out what that other sound is. She can’t see you clearly, or maybe not at all, so she has to use her hearing to try to understand what’s going on.

Because your baby has a visual impairment, she won’t necessarily respond to a smile, a wave of your hand, or a funny face, the way a sighted baby does. When you reach down to pick her up, she may stiffen because she’s startled. She may not smile at you because she can’t see that you’re smiling at her. It may sometimes be easy to think that your baby doesn’t love you or you’ve done something wrong.

Getting to Know One Another

What’s needed is a little time for you to become used to your baby’s reactions to you and the world around her. While you see her clearly, she may see you as a hazy shadow. But your baby needs a period of adjustment, too—to learn from her other senses and get used to the sound of your voice, the touch of your hands, and the scent of you when you hug her.

Here are a few ideas that might help.

  • Talk to your baby as you walk toward her room. Start talking to her before you get to the door. This will give her time to realize you’re nearby.
  • Continue to be loving and affectionate, even if she doesn’t respond the way you’d expect.
  • Touch your baby before you pick her up. If you always say, “I’m going to pick you up now,” as you stroke her arm or rub her tummy, she’ll come to understand that the words and the touch mean she’s going to be lifted.
  • Show your baby things that you’re going to use on her body before you use them. Let her feel them and smell them. If her nose needs to be wiped, let her touch the tissue and guide her hand with yours to bring it to her nose. When a baby is suddenly touched by something she doesn’t expect to feel, she may be startled and start to cry. Help her learn to anticipate what’s about to happen.
  • Get creative. Your baby may not respond to the smiles or silly faces you make to try to get her to smile or laugh. So, you’ll need to find other ways to get that smile or giggle out of her. Tickling, gently swinging her up and down, or singing little songs are some of the ways to get her to have fun with you.
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