Sometimes it feels like the second you fall pregnant, the very second you conceive, people start knocking down your door to give bizarre advice that can’t possibly be grounded in any kind of reality, scientific or otherwise. And while some tidbits – notably the one that goes ‘if you buy anything for the baby before your 12 week scan on your head be it if something goes wrong,’ which, honestly, don’t even think it – are wholly unwelcome, I have to admit that when it comes to the more inane and harmless ones, I love an old wives tale as much as the next (slightly macabre and arguably somewhat sinister in some circumstances, but lets not dwell on that) woman. And my favourite is the one about babies and mirrors.
It goes a little like this:
Babies under one can see the spirit world. And mirrors act as a portal. If you pop your baby in front of a mirror before the age of one, therefore, you are opening them up to unimaginable horrors. They can see the devil. They can become possessed. They can have their soul snatched and replaced with that of a demon. And they can have more trouble with teething than they would have done otherwise which, if you’ve been through teething, you’ll know is the scariest suggestion on this list.
It is all, of course, BS. But interesting to know what our foremothers used to believe, no?
In a musing much more grounded in reality (sorry foremothers) have you ever seen the way a baby looks at itself in the mirror? It’s as though it’s seen the most beautiful thing in the world (which it has, as any mother knows, their child is beyond compare) and although they don’t often yet know that they’re looking at themselves, a bit of time spent reflection gazing can hold a multitude of benefits – not least that they’ll have found someone new to shower with their sloppy smooches. Babies really are just the sweetest little narcissists.
Here are some reasons to ignore suggestions of the devil, and give that beautiful baby a mirror:
A newborn’s favourite thing to look at is a human face, according to whattoexpect.com. And what a gorgeous little face it will see, too. Adhering to baby’s preferences (in this case, face gazing) and putting them in a position to do safe activities they enjoy is never a bad thing. And it gives you a little peace and quiet, too, as they gaze in wonder at the magical creature before them
Mirrors let babies explore their world in a whole new way. First of all, by changing the perspective of their surroundings, allowing them to see a formerly familiar room in an entirely new light. Not only that, but mirrors introduce babies to their own face, which they may wish to discover for themselves by reaching out and touching ‘the baby in the mirror.’ If your little one doesn’t have many opportunities to see children of their own age, this is a great chance to let them ‘meet’ one (the very best one, at that!)
And gives you something to talk to them about. I think I’ve said this before, but being instructed to ‘chat’ to my newborn was met with bewilderment when I first crossed over into mummyhood. After all, I barely knew the kid, what common ground did we have? Pointing out facial features, explaining to them what they’re seeing, and simply talking through what is going on is a great little topic to bond over. and is one you can return to over and over again
Mirror play helps babies build their self awareness. Babies don’t commonly understand that they’re seeing themselves in a reflection until around 18 months. According to Psychology Today, neurobiological and psychological triggers for self awareness are yet to be identified. However, there is one interesting test that will let you know whether your baby knows they’re looking at their own face. The ‘rouge test,’ as it was dubbed by researchers, simply involves placing a mark on your child’s face, and observing how they respond to it in the mirror. A self aware child will likely reach for their own face, to try to understand what has caused the change. A baby that is not yet self aware will reach out and touch the mirror baby’s mark, instead (cute video of the experiment, here)
And helps to promote positive feelings. Because staring directly at a smiling baby can only lead to a boost, as can seeing their mama smiling with them
There are some great child-safe mirrors on the market, allowing for independent play when partaking in this activity (we have one facing our son’s car seat, which he finds highly entertaining on trips out.) Or you could sit with your baby in front of a mirror you already own, and do the activity together. It’s totally your call, and the results will mostly be the same.
Happy mirror time, mama! And good luck with that teething. The devil himself would run from that fun parenting phase.