Is It Possible To Remember Being Born?

Being born may have been your first ever experience outside of the womb — and a chaotic one at that — but that doesn't mean it's your first memory. According to research, it's not possible to remember being born (via LiveScience). In fact, most adults don't remember anything that happened before they were 2 ½ years old, according to a 2020 review in Memory. Due to a phenomenon called "childhood amnesia," memories from the first few years after that point still tend to be few and far between (via Greater Good Magazine).

Many people assume that this is just because our infancy happened a really long time ago. This would make sense because children and teenagers remember earlier events than adults do, according to Greater Good. But that isn't necessarily all there is to it. A 2012 study in the journal Learning and Memory discovered that the lack of memories from infancy and early childhood is far more severe than would be expected if it could solely be pinned down to the passage of time (via LiveScience).

Why do we experience childhood amnesia?

As early as six months of age, people are able to form long-term memories that may last for months, and by the time they enter preschool, children can remember events that happened years beforehand. However, their memory is not fully developed until adolescence, which could play a major role in childhood amnesia (via Greater Good Magazine).

According to LiveScience, some scientists believe that the continual maturation of the brain may make it more difficult for people to remember events from infancy and early childhood. A related theory is that people's older memories are erased with the development of new brain cells.

Language is another factor that may affect our memory. One study tracked children who were brought in for medical care after an injury. Children over the age of 26 months who were able to discuss the event were able to remember it for up to five years, whereas children under the age of 26 months, who could not discuss the event, retained little to no memory of it. According to Greater Good, this means that memories may be lost if a person can't translate them into language. Since infants don't have a solid understanding of language, this could go a long way in explaining infantile amnesia.