New parents and parents-to-be often ask me just how much their baby experiences while still in the womb. The answer is, simply, quite a lot.
Life in the Uterus: Some people think that the period in the womb is mostly for physical growth. Yes, of course it is, but there is so much more to it.
In the last period of pregnancy, babies start to do things with their brain. Perhaps it is going too far to say that they think, but studies show that babies start to respond differently to stimuli, whether from the outside or inside. The brain is involved in these reactions. This is fascinating when you consider that less than a hundred years ago people thought that a newborn baby was not much more than a body with a number of reflexes, We now know a lot about the different sensory developments of babies while still in the belly.
Your Baby Knows How You Feel! Your baby knows better than anybody else that as a mother you are bonding with your “belly baby.” You are already getting to know your baby before you’ve even seen him! You know exactly what each kick and turn means. And, your baby knows you, too. He tastes, hears and feels your mood.
The taste of the amniotic fluid depends on our condition and your mood. Every time your baby takes a little sip of this fluid, he tastes the changes you are experiencing. In fact, he has a much larger number of taste buds than an older child or an adult. Also, his taste buds cover an even larger area – the entire oral cavity. He has quite a palate at this stage.
Research has shown that if you suddenly experience something stressful, the taste of the amniotic fluid changes. Small changes, such as during a chat with a neighbor, are not easy to measure. But, when you as a mother, talk with full attention to your baby, it’s usually accompanied with a lot of emotion. And, he will taste that. Such intense emotions help your baby to understand your “talk” better. Similar emotions help your baby to learn to speak after birth.
Not only does he taste what you are feeling, he also hears what you are feeling. The mood of your baby is, indeed, largely determined by your mood. He picks up on what you are expressing by the melody of your voice, listening to the changes in your pitch. Your voice betrays the emotions you feel as you speak. Meaning that the words do not have to correspond with what you feel because he does not yet understand their meaning. Your heartbeat also betrays your mood. Your baby hears how your heart responds to certain situations; how it speeds up or slows down when you are happy, frightened or sad. Your baby hears your emotions and sympathizes with you. Your baby also reads the emotions in your breathing. You can be breathing quitely, hurriedly, be sighing, or take long pauses and so on. All this conveys a message. A message in which he, in turn, responds to in his own unique way.
Memories from the Uterus: Newborn babies even remember things from the abdomen, though he is not aware it. Research has shown, for example, that the ability to listen to sound, and not only hear, is significantly increased between the 36th and 37th week of pregnancy. The baby recognizes sounds that he has heard before. His memory works. The researchers discovered this when they played the same music to a 36-to-37 weeks old baby in the uterus time and again. They noted the same movements every time the music began to play. A sure sign that the belly baby recognized the music. Keep in mind, though, that while the baby starts to react to sounds he hears from the belly, he does not recognize the sounds. For that, he must continue to develop. And that development takes place during the 30th and 36th weeks. Only this time, the development is not in his ear, but in his brain.
Your Baby Will Experience A Lot, But Very Differently: Even though your baby hears, tastes and feels a lot while in the belly, and he is able to “remember” things, he does so very differently than the way that we do. This is because his brain is not working exactly like ours does yet. We smell that someone next to us is wearing perfume, but we do not hear and taste the perfume. A newborn baby does not yet experience those differences in sensory perception. His sensory experiences are still mixed up. In other words, all the signals that come in through his senses he experiences as a whole — a sort of “soup” of experiences. By birth, your baby does not understand that he has his own existence. He thinks that he is one with the rest of the world around him. That is something that we can hardly even imagine.
With each mental leap, your baby will experience the world more in the way we perceive it. He learns the difference between various sensory signals and learns to recognize his own self.
Pretty interesting, don’t you think?