I was always wondering when my baby starts to learn. Newborn babies can respond to their living environment from the first day of postnatal life. When I was pregnant, I sang the same songs, read the same poems for my baby almost every day. After he was born, the songs and poems that I had read to him showed magical effects. Most of the time, when he was fuzzy, he calmed down when I began to sing the songs and read the poems that he listened every day in my womb.
Scientific studies confirmed that babies in the womb respond to music and voices as well. Many moms can feel that baby moves in response to music, and some moms, dads, and scientists believe that babies can be comforted by hearing the same songs, voices, and stories after birth that they first heard in utero. Studies show that newborn babies only response to their own mom’s voice, not even the recoded mom’s voice in the first several days. The reason is simple, because mom is the only person who was with them all the time when they were in the uterus, and mom’s voice is the most familiar sound.
Other than song and music, I had lots of communications with my son when he was still in my uterus. My son kicked me for the sounds and music he liked or disliked, and sometimes when I chatted with him. When I saw his feet or hand pushing my tummy, I always tickled him back. That is another opportunity for my baby to explore and learn in my womb.
1. Baby starts to learn as early as in mom’s womb.
Learning is related to memory. Fetal memory was first recognized in 1925. Recent experiments show that newborns have functional memory, which developed in the prenatal period. The scientific studies suggest that fetus starts to respond to sounds in mom’s womb from about mid-pregnancy (as early as 16 weeks). Even when fetuses are not responding to sounds, they may still sense the sound but only unable to make significant movements at an earlier stage. As early as fetus starts to develop senses, they start to explore and learn.
Nervous system controls most of the brain functions, including movements, senses, emotions, memory, etc. Nervous system of the fetus starts to develop start form week 2-3, and their neurons greatly increase later in the first and second trimesters. Neuron migration and formation of synapses occur mainly in the late second and third trimesters. During early pregnancy, the brain is extremely plastic and may be easily influenced by broad environmental factors, then affect long term programming and function.
2. Understand baby early leaning and stimulate fetal nervous development
Nutrition plays an important role in human brain development.
Studies of nutritional effects on children’s neurocognitive development suggest that from 24 weeks, nutrition is more critical when myelination and synapse formation occur.
The scientific studies have confirmed the important nutrients for brain development are
- Omega-3 fatty acids are most important, as human brain is mainly lipids (dry weight 60% is lipids, of which 20% are DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid)
- Vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline are necessary.
Provide baby a safe and comfortable environment. Reduce stress level in pregnancy.
Yes, fetus lives in mom’s womb. Except noises, most of the time, fetus is not affected by outside environment directly. The environmental impacts mostly come from mom. For example, maternal stress, which is a largely studied topic in fetal neurology, significantly affects baby nerve system development. Lots of studies have proven that maternal stress, are associated with increased neurodevelopmental disease risk, such as autism, mental retardation, stuttering, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And it impacts males significantly more than females, including increased rates of above diseases.
Communicate with your fetus and surround your baby with love.
You might feel a little silly at first. If you feel unnatural to talk to your own belly, reading a book or singing a song is easier.
Chatting with your baby and playing music is a way to stimulate fetal auditory and retain fetal memory, that is the most important method baby learns in uterus. There is a large amount of evidence from habituation, classical conditioning, and exposure learning research in animals and humans that the fetus can learn.
When talking to our baby, we are showing our love to our baby; it is a way mom binds to the fetus. Scientific studies indicate early bonding has positive impacts on the long-term mental health and resilience of children.