Talk to Your Belly: Language-Centric Pregnancy Care

Music and Pregnancy Care

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Did you know that at-home speech therapy for kids can actually begin in the womb as part of your pregnancy care routine? It’s true – and even young children without speech delays or similar issues can benefit from speech therapy techniques to encourage language development. These speech therapy techniques can start before your child is even born. One of the hot trends in pregnancy care, other than loading up moms-to-be with eco-friendly gifts, is putting a headset on a pregnant belly and exposing the fetus to Mozart or Beethoven. And yes, the fetus can hear that and learn from it. But a recent scientific study reveals that a fetus actually begins learning individual sounds in the womb.

In Utero Language Study

The study, which was published in Acta Paediatrica, was led by Christine Moon of the Pacific Lutheran University. Moon, a professor of psychiatry, tested newborn infants in the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, as well as the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. Each set of newborns were tested on 17 native language vowel sounds and the same number of foreign language vowel sounds.

The researchers gauged the infants’ recognition of the vowel sounds by evaluating their interest levels. And how exactly does one scientifically and accurately evaluate the interest level of an infant, one might wonder? It’s simpler than you would think. The infants were all given a pacifier that was connected to a computer. The computer measured how often the infants sucked on their pacifiers, and for how long. So when a baby sucks the pacifier, it produces a vowel sound. When the baby pauses, the sound ceases.

The Results

The infants from both countries expressed greater interest in the foreign vowel sounds than the native vowel sounds. The researchers concluded that this is because the infants were already bored with the native sounds and were ready to move on to the new stuff. Can’t you just imagine a cute little newborn rolling her eyes and thinking, “Geez, Mom, enough with those old vowel sounds… That’s so passé.”

“These little ones had been listening to their mother’s voice in the womb, and particularly her vowels for ten weeks. The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain. At birth, they are apparently ready for something novel,” said Patricia Kuhl, of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. Kuhl was a co-author of the study.

Prenatal Speech Therapy Techniques

Okay, so enough of the scientific stuff. Your fetus will begin to hear you at about 30 weeks, around the same time that kicking and punching becomes more noticeable. Here are some speech therapy techniques to include in your pregnancy care routine:

  • Talk to yourself (yes, out loud) throughout the day about your to-do list, your grocery list, or pretty much anything you can think of – and speak loudly enough for your unborn child to hear you clearly.
  • Read to your belly. You could read children’s books and nursery rhymes, or you might prefer the paper or the latest Grisham thriller – just read it out loud.
  • Play music. Yup, that headset-on-the-belly routine will do the trick. You could also sing to your baby.
  • Acknowledge your baby’s responses – pat your belly gently and talk to him when he kicks.
  • Encourage other family members to communicate with the baby.
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