When do babies start to recognize people?

Face recognition is one of the first visual skills Baby learns – a 2012 study out of the Stanford Vision and NeuroDevelopment Lab says that babies can process faces almost as well as adults do by the time they’re around 4 months old. Other studies suggest that babies can recognize their parents or primary caregivers’ faces within days or weeks, and their mothers’ faces sometimes within hours of birth, depending on how awake and attentive they are.

Once Baby starts building the skills to differentiate between faces, which he starts working on pretty much as soon as he is born, the biggest factor in when he starts to recognize the people in his life has to do with how often he sees them, and for how long. The first people he recognizes are generally his parents or primary caregivers – the people who feed him, and whose faces he gets to see up close and personal for significant amounts of time even when he’s young enough that he can only see approximately 8 to 12 inches from his face. This means that if Baby only sees his grandparents once every couple of weeks for a few hours, it might be a few weeks until he starts to recognize them, while family or friends who he sees once a week will make it into Baby’s mental roster of friendly faces a little faster. And people who drop into his life every day, even if they’re, say, the crossing guard near his daycare, rather than an adoring relative, will be someone he recognizes pretty quickly.

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