New studies continue to emerge that support the idea that a baby in the womb is capable of a lot more than was previously thought. Just last week, researchers at the University of Florida announced their discovery that babies in the last trimester learn and remember nursery rhymes, and that they become especially attentive when the rhymes are read by their mother!
Discoveries like these have made it clear that a baby in the last trimester is an active and responsive member of the household, someone who hears, learns, and remembers what he is exposed to in the womb. Think about what this means! Your baby is already familiar with his sibling’s laugh, the sound of your dog barking, the musical theme of your favorite show, and most importantly, the melody and cadence of your voice.
Previous research in this area strongly suggests that a baby is soothed and calmed by a rhythmic and repetitive story — or song — because the inherent beat closely mimics the rhythm of his mother’s heartbeat and breath. It makes sense, doesn’t it? A baby in the womb is cozy, warm, and comforted by the “ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump” of your heartbeat, and the in-and-out “whoosh” of your breathing. If you read a rhythmic story, he will also be soothed by the rhythm of your voice, which he can hear quite well by the third trimester.
When your baby is born, he’s taken out of this soothing environment, with its predictable, rhythmic sound. But if you hold him close and read a rhythmic poem or story that you read to him regularly during the last trimester, he will immediately be soothed by the familiar “ba-bump” beat.
We created our book, Can’t Wait to Show You, the first in the Belly Books Collection, with all this research in mind. As you read this selection, notice its distinct rhythm and limerick meter:
Hello in there, baby! I’m thinking of you
As you’re curled up inside me so small
Every joy that we share
All my loving and care
And I can’t wait to show you it all!
Of course, the baby in the womb won’t yet be able to understand the words and appreciate the poem’s imagery and emotion — but you will! He will become accustomed to the sounds of the words, and the repeated rhythms will catch and hold his attention in the womb. And because your baby is already in love with your unique voice, he’ll pay extra close attention as you read.
When your baby is born and you read the familiar words, you’ll be amazed to see that he becomes instantly relaxed — a rapt and peaceful audience. You know the feeling: You’ve been searching the radio for a good station. When you catch the beginning of one of your favorite songs you just sit back, listen, and let it take you away.
The benefits of reading rhythmic words to babies in the womb naturally apply to music, too. For a refresher on the benefits of singing lullabies to your expected baby, please see our November 6, 2013, post, Joyful Noise!