My daughter has pressed her little nose up against my pregnant belly bump and asked her sister if she’d like to come out and play. She then tickles the bump and sings her a song or two. We’ve all done it. Talked to the bump in anticipation that she can hear us and will recognize our voices when she is born. I often wonder if it actually works like that, as muffled voices make their way through my body to her tiny little ears which are still developing.
In fact, it turns out that yes, it can actually work like this. Your baby is learning a great deal about life, it’s family and the world it will soon meet as it grows bigger, stronger and cuter with every trimester. Do you feel extra kicks or movements when you sing gentle songs to your bump? Does your belly ripple with somersaults when Dad reads stories or when your other little kids make a ruckus? Recent research has delved into the notion that unborn babies concentrate on more than simply getting bigger and developing organs during the nine months of pregnancy.
They are doing and thinking a lot more than we realize and it’s fascinating to know just what exactly is going on in there while you feel every kick, jab, and hiccup. Babies begin to learn in the womb, so much more than simply understanding how to use their limbs to poke your ribs. Your baby is developing and fine-tuning their senses and learning as much as they can about their world. From learning words to recognizing voices and language, and remembering songs, their development is so much keener in utero than we first realized.
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While your fetus does not actually “breathe” in the womb, her body is learning to take her first breath. During pregnancy, a mother breathes for her child as oxygen the mother inhales is transferred to the baby through the umbilical cord and carbon dioxide is dispelled through the placenta. By nine weeks gestation, your baby is already practicing breathing-like movements. And by the end of pregnancy, she occasionally inhales and exhales amniotic fluid, and moves the diaphragm up and down, which means she will be capable of taking that first gulp of air when she is born.
Incredibly, Mum’s body plays a huge part in developing baby’s lungs to prepare them for that first breath. Her body produces an increasing amount of surfactant in the amniotic fluid as the pregnancy progress which the baby needs to coat the inside of her lungs to keep the lung’s air sacs open. By week 35 babies are considered to have enough surfactant to prevent the lungs from collapsing. When your baby is born, her first cry often indicates the start of breathing as she takes that big first gulp of air which she’s been preparing for so long.
5-WHAT’S THAT NOISE?
The womb is not exactly the quietest of places to get a good nights rest. Your baby is being inundated with a plethora of sounds from your body including your heart beat, the sound of blood whooshing around your body, your stomach gurgling, hiccups and your voice. On top of that, they are listening to the incredible amount of noise that comes from outside of you – the TV, car horns blaring, music, voices and conversations, dogs barking. Absolutely anything you can hear can possibly make it’s a way to your baby.
From as early as 20 weeks gestation, babies have started to develop their keen sense of hearing and by week 27 they begin to react to the sounds and vibrations which are being filtered into the womb. It may sound like quite a noisy place in there, but for a baby, these are often ambient sounds, which is why they are often soothed by white noise in their first few months of life.
What’s more, babies often remember the sounds which they listened to so intently during their stay with Mum. They may remember the theme tune to your favorite soap opera or recognize the song which Dad always hums.
4-BONDING WITH MOM
As your baby listens to the sounds of the world it will soon meet, she is also listening intently to the sound of Mum’s voice. In the very first act of bonding with your child, your baby is recognizing your voice and learning to know who Mum is. By the time your baby is born, she will be able to identify your voice amongst others.
Research has proven that around the eight or ninth month of pregnancy, a baby’s heart rate will slow down in utero, as she hears her mothers voice, creating a calming effect on the baby. Incredibly, in one research paper, day old babies were given pacifiers which were connected to tape recorders. Depending on the babies sucking, a recording of the Mum’s voice was played or that of a different woman. Amazingly, the study examined these sucking patterns and discovered that babies learned to use the pacifier in a particular rhythm to switch on their mother’s voices.
William Fifer,Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, was a coauthor on the paper, and said about the amazing results, “Within 10 to 20 minutes, the babies learned to adjust their sucking rate on the pacifier to turn on their own mother’s voice. This not only points out a newborn’s innate love for his mother’s voice but also a baby’s unique ability to learn quickly.”