MONDAY, July 1, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Babies as young as 2 months know when they are about to be picked up and prepare themselves for it, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at 28 babies, aged 2 months to 4 months, and found that most of them understood that they were about to be picked up when their mothers came toward them with outstretched arms. The babies then made their bodies still and stiff in order to make it easier for them to be picked up.
It also appears that babies learn to improve the smoothness and coordination of their movements at the same age in order to make it easier for parents to pick them up, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal PLoS One.
By 3 months of age, babies were shifting their gazes from their mother's face to her outstretched arms.
"We didn't expect such clear results. From these findings we predict this awareness is likely to be found even earlier, possibly not long after birth," study author Vasu Reddy, a professor at the University of Portsmouth, in England, said in a university news release.
"The results suggest we need to rethink the way we study infant development, because infants seem to be able to understand other people's actions directed toward them earlier than previously thought," Reddy said. "Experiments where infants are observers of others' actions may not give us a full picture of their anticipatory abilities."
The findings could also be used as an early indicator of some developmental problems, including autism. Previous research showed that children with autism don't appear to make body adjustments in anticipation of being picked up.
The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines a baby's social and emotional development from birth to 3 months.