When Does a Baby in the Womb Hear Sounds?

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Most people realize that once they have children, the days of swearing (not to insinuate that you ever do) are long gone. Contrary to what some people believe, it is not “cute” to hear a toddler using foul language. This only leads to trouble when school starts and can get your child off on the wrong foot with teachers and other parents. Nope, the swearing has to stop. But, did you know baby can hear you long before you give birth? That’s right: Your baby can hear your voice as early as the 16th week of pregnancy, according to Life Before Birth, the website for the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, a scientific organization that offers support and information on prenatal life and the birth process. 

Soothing Sounds are Good 

Your baby will get familiar with you and even start to begin to learn your language while she is still in the womb. And, your fetus will be able to hear music with very little distortion, according to Life Before Birth. You may want to consider, before putting on a Metallica CD, that your fetus prefers quiet, harmonious music. Life Before Birth says that loud, unexpected noises can shock your baby. If you feel a strong kick, your baby is probably trying to tell you to stop, not trying out a new dance move. The days when your baby will choose loud music will most likely happen in a different phase of life, as it does with most of us.

Baby’s Developing Brain

Exposure to singing, music and voices are stimulating to your fetus and will probably have a positive influence on brain development. A phenomenon called the “Mozart Effect” can improve test scores in small children all the way to helping with college SAT scores. In particular, Mozart’s music, along with other classical music, can help to wire a baby’s brain, at least according to Parenthood.com. Music helps with spatial reasoning in particular, which is how the brain does tasks such as math and playing chess. And nowadays, there are many types of prenatal music belts available for expectant moms that allow them to play music for their unborn baby. 

Have Faith in Mother Nature

While agreeing that parents should stimulate the fetus with sounds, Columbia University developmental psychobiologist William Fifer warns against taking this too far by buying a lot of “fetal acoustic stimulation” devices such as speakers designed to pipe sounds and music through the uterus. Fifer points out that Mother Nature does a pretty good job of letting your fetus receive sounds naturally. In fact, placing speakers directly on your abdomen could disrupt your baby’s sleep or growth.

Don’t Go Overboard

You should be able to see evidence that your baby did hear you while he was in the womb by trying an experiment. If you played a particular piece of music for your baby while you were pregnant, play this music after giving birth. Usually the baby’s head will turn toward the familiar sound, Life Before Birth says. Familiar music and mom’s familiar voice can help your baby relax and may even increase his sucking. Don’t go overboard because too much of a good thing is actually bad. You don’t want your baby tuning out the classical music, which he might do if you play it too much. Stimulating your baby for five to 10 minutes twice a day is a good rule of thumb.

Adjusting to Home

When your baby comes home from the hospital, if you play the familiar music from when you were pregnant, your baby may be able to better adjust to her new surroundings. The music will recall your baby’s time in the womb, giving her a sense of security. One tip from Life Before Baby is to play different types of music for different activities to help your baby interpret whether it is time to relax, eat or take a bath.

Enjoy This Time

Not only will your baby recognize your voice, he will recognize his father’s voice, too, especially if Dad can rest his head on your belly and talk to his baby. After the birth, your baby should be able to recognize the voices of both of his parents. Nothing is more exciting than having your newborn baby seek you out just from hearing your voice and knowing that you are all bonding. Enjoy this time, because soon enough, such as during the teen years, parental voices might have just the opposite effect.

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