What Babies Learn in Utero

Keep Talking and Playing Music for a Baby in Utero

Working with children full-time I am amazed by how children learn language. Studies suggest that infants start picking up elements of what will be their first language before they are even born. Studies show that newborns recognize their mother’s voice to a stranger’s voice, recognize music they heard played while they were still in utero, learn part of their native language, and are born crying in their native accent. They are hearing and learning before they are born.

Since babies develop the ability to hear by about 30 weeks’ gestation, we should all make an effort to talk to a mother’s pregnant belly and play music for the unborn for the last months of pregnancy.

Nicholas Bakalar of The New York Times discussed a study scheduled for future publication in the journal Acta Paediatrica that suggest babies learn part of their native language before born. 

Another study published in 2010 suggests that, from birth, babies cry in the accent of their mothers’ native language. French babies’ cries end on a rising note, while German babies’ end on a falling note – imitating the “melodic contours” of those languages.

Studies also show that newborns prefer their mother’s voice to a stranger’s voice. Dr. Barbara Kisilevsky, a Queen’s University professor of nursing along with a team of psychologists at Queen’s and obstetricians in Hangzhou, China, found that fetuses are capable of learning in the womb and can remember and recognize their mother’s voice before they are even born. Their research findings are published in the international journal Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society.

In 2011, scientists at Paris Descartes University found that one-month-old babies remember music that was played to them in the third trimester of their mothers’ pregnancies.

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