From the beginning I wondered about how well my granddaughter would recognize us since we live far away and don't see her weekly. We did spend the first seven weeks with her - basically taken care of her during the day while our daughter recovered from being up much of the night. I'm sure that played a role. So, I've been googling things like "How do babies remember people?" to see what actual research there is. This Baby Center post supports my belief that the early daily contact probably worked:
"For infants, the degree of exposure really counts," says Lyuba Konopasek, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, based in New York City. If your child sees her grandparents once a week, she'll probably recognize them by the time she's 6 to 9 months old, but if she sees them daily, it may take only weeks.Here are some other findings - but be warned. It looks like we don't know a lot about this and the answers will be adjusted as more research is done.
1. Babies remember more than adults think - though not necessarily consciously.
A recent Danish study tested babies at one year and then when they were three years old they were shown pictures of the two researchers - one whom they'd seen before and one they hadn't. The three year olds spent more time looking at the image of the researcher they hadn't seen before. They claim that it is normal for people to spend more time looking at new things than familiar ones and so this confirms the babies subconsciously remember the original researcher.
Another study showed 11 year-olds pictures of their friends when they were 3 and 4. Most couldn't recognize them. But a galvanic skin test showed that subconsciously they did remember.
2. Different kinds of memory
This article says that first babies have procedural memory. They can learn a sequence of actions - rolling over, using a spoon, riding a bicycle - and they can remember this for up to 2 years. So perhaps they can't do it when they are first shown, but when they develop the needed motor skills, they can remember and do it. Reminders along the way help them remember.
Then along comes semantic memory "which researchers define as knowledge about the world that extends beyond our bodies. Semantic memory allows us to make simple associations."
3. Which senses work best?
Much of what I'm reading focuses on visual memory. They test with visual cues. But I'm guessing that audio is also important. I'm pretty sure Z knows me both from visual and audio cues. And I'd guess that smell plays an important role. Here's a blog post that confirms the importance of smell with references to scientific research.
4. Sign language can help babies communicate their needs sooner
My daughter taught Z sign language. It's easier for babies to sign than to vocalize words. So Z early on learned signs for things like milk, more, apple, hat, etc. My guess is that this reduces frustration because babies can let parents know what they want specifically rather than crying and making the parents guess. This video (which has a vested interest in our believing this) agrees with my conclusion.
We did have a jolly good time. And it's delightful seeing how much other people enjoy seeing babies. When I thanked the magician on the pier for doing some tricks just for Z, he turned it around and thanked me for bringing her. Babies are possibilities - still innocent, unselfconscious, and honest about how they feel.