Updated: Jan 29, 2020
People have sung to their babies forever. Every culture has lullabies and children’s songs that are passed down through the generations. New ones are written and shared, and the custom goes on—a rich part of the fabric of human civilization. These songs are designed to relax babies, calm their fears, or entertain and amuse them throughout childhood. As we have learned more about the life and capabilities of fetuses, we have realized that a fetus can hear clearly for months before birth, and can also discriminate sounds. At birth, newborns respond to familiar sounds by becoming calm and orienting toward the source of the sound, and even indicate their preferences for familiar voices and words over the unfamiliar.
Newborn babies prefer their parents’ voices, and other familiar ones, over those of strangers, and they prefer hearing a story that their mother had read frequently while they were in utero over an unfamiliar story, or even the familiar one read by someone other than their mother. Fetuses hear, remember, have preferences, respond to, and discriminate among differences—in sounds, music, voices.
These exciting findings have inspired educators to advocate prenatal learning through recordings played through a mother’s abdomen (of languages, music and other things). They have inspired birth activists and baby advocates to provide a safe, enriching environment for the fetus. Advocates of prenatal bonding emphasize communication between parent and unborn child as a powerful way to strengthen the bond.
The benefits of singing to your baby before birth are:
Fetuses can sense audio vibrations and rhythms early in pregnancy. Later, they can hear and distinguish sounds.
Newborns prefer their parent’s voices over the voices of strangers.
Repetitive prenatal reading of one story by one parent every day for weeks results in the newborns recognition and preference for that story.
Newborns and young babies are calmed by familiar music, as demonstrated by the universal use of lullabies.
6 simple steps to introduce song into your baby’s life:
Choose a song that you like, lullaby or personal favorite, and is easy for you to sing.
Sing it every day. Parents may sing together but each should sing it alone much of the time.
When your baby is born, after the initial lung clearing, sing the song to your baby
Continue to sing it every day, especially when the baby is crying.
Sing it when bathing or diapering, when soothing or helping your baby to sleep.
Sing it when your baby is upset and you can’t pick her up.
Modified excerpt from: Beautiful Music: The Benefits of Singing to your Baby, Before and After Birth, by Penny Simkin, P.T. Read the full article in Pathways Issue 38