Have you ever tried to remember your life inside the womb before you were born? Unborn babies have good hearing and sound travels well through water, so you heard things that reached your eardrums through the liquid-filled uterus. Surely, there have to be some kind of memories. Certainly, your mother’s voice, her heartbeat, her bowel sounds. You also heard voices and sounds that came to you from somewhere out there. Do you remember swimming, being swirled around as Mom moved, bouncing against the wall? How about the later weeks when you were tucked in tightly, feeling the warm embrace of smooth tissue all around your body? And then, there was your birth. Think hard! How was it to be squeezed, to exit the world you knew and enter a strange, cold place, where you no longer heard all those soothing sounds and had to start breathing your own air?
Almost certainly, nothing will come to you. At least nothing that would be retrievable. Most people do not have any clear memories from the time before they were 3-4 years old. During infancy, the brain is still developing and refining the systems involved in memory formation. Nevertheless, the first 2-3 years before lasting memories are formed are a crucial learning period. Infants and toddlers feel and express pleasure or distress. They learn to recognize and seek sensory experiences and to coordinate motor movements. They also learn to interact with their caregivers through touch, facial expressions, and sound imitation. They form close relationships, reacting with fear to separation from their caregivers and being happy when reunited with them.