Your relationship with the budding life within you begins long before her birth. Pregnant women can feel strong emotional ties to their growing babies, and the babies are forming their own primitive attachments.
The womb is a warm, watery haven where the baby enjoys solitude, but not complete isolation. Her senses are gradually developing, and she will experience sensations relating to taste, smell, sight, sound and touch before entering the outside world. Hearing becomes an important intellectual link, delivering clues from the world after the womb. Your baby will react to loud noises by the ninth gestational week; by the end of the second trimester, her hearing is fairly developed.
Even when you are enveloped in silence, your baby is enjoying the warm rush of steady noise delivered by your heartbeat, respiration and digestion. All incoming sounds are filtered through amniotic “white noise” before they register with your baby. White noise machines or household noisemakers such as a quiet vacuum or blow drier are comforting to your baby after birth because they are reminiscent of the oceanic sounds of prenatal life.
Studies with newborn babies show that a newborn is responsive to her mother’s voice hours after birth, suggesting that she recognizes and remembers the sounds from the womb. Your voice becomes familiar to your developing baby and carries a distinct tonal quality. The mother’s voice is conducted through bone and tissue to create a unique reverberation that differs from other voices penetrating the amniotic wall.
A newborn is most receptive to his mother’s voice when it’s filtered through noise comparable to amniotic fluid. She is also most comforted by her native language—a newborn will subconsciously feel the shift in cadence when Mom speaks a language other than her usual tongue! A baby is measurably calmed by her mother’s voice inside the womb and after birth.
Comforting your baby while she’s in utero is a simple task. What you say is not important; she simply wants to feel the rhythm and tone of your voice. Speak in a calm voice and try to avoid yelling, as it will startle your baby and may disrupt her sleep cycle.
Dad and other close family and friends should follow the same guidelines. Your baby is able to recognize familiar voices after birth and can distinguish between voices even while in the womb. It’s appropriate for dad to speak, read or sing to your belly, but loud noises, poking and flashlight probing can be disruptive to crucial developmental patterns. Your partner will build his own emotional bond with your baby as he speaks to her and dreams of things to come.
The sound of music
Although playing Mozart during pregnancy will not necessarily raise your baby’s SAT score, it can be a calming influence for you and your developing baby. Music can also stimulate prenatal learning in the form of pre-linguistic cognitive development. Choose melodies that are consonant and simple (think “cheerful”): look for “baby-friendly” classical music CDs with simplified renditions of familiar tunes. Each song may be reduced to a single melody on a single instrument, perhaps with “white noise” in the background to comfort your little one after birth.
Singing to your in-utero baby may further her subconscious familiarity with language and bring her comfort as she sways to the rhythm of your voice. Your newborn will recognize oft-repeated melodies and lullabies from her days in the womb. Babies have been shown to react to familiar music by calming or becoming more focused and alert.