Music and Your Fetus

Beginning in the twenty-eighth week-and some say even earlier-your baby is able to receive stimuli from the world outside your belly, meaning she can hear the sounds you hear and can feel as well. What this means is that playing music for your baby can be a wonderful way to accomplish many things. First, when a baby hears a soothing sound, she is stimulated and the body begins preparations for sound and learning comprehension. Secondly, just like it does for you or I, calming music can lull the baby into a calm state.

The Music of Mom's Heartbeat

You've probably heard that a mother's heartbeat has a calming effect on her baby in utero due to its steady rhythmic sound. Reading to a child in utero or playing music, can also be used to settle the baby, and if you play the same songs or read the same book after the baby is born, she will remember and feel soothed. One good way to let your baby hear the music is to put headphones connected to a tape player on your belly. Don't turn the music up too loudly or it will have the opposite effect you are aiming for.

Is Fetal Development Affected by Music?

The truth is, nobody really knows if a baby's development in the womb can be enhanced by playing music to them regularly. One study showed that babies who were consistently played the same song throughout the pregnancy showed a preference for the song as long as a year after their birth. Whether or not Mozart will actually help your baby's brain develop and grow remains to be seen. In theory, prenatal musical stimulation can definitely yield positive results such as increased attention span, improved sleep habits, increased cognitive development and a higher level of language skills.

Although classical music may not be your music of choice, consider that studies have definitively shown that when plants are exposed to classical music on a daily basis they flourish and grow toward the music. When hard rock is played, the plants do their best to grow in the opposite direction and do not thrive to the same extent. Not that your baby is a plant, however all in all, any type of calmer music is probably better for your baby's development than loud or chaotic music. Based on fetal breathing patterns which researchers can measure, it has been shown that babies respond to musical rhythms, and that calming music seems to have a soothing effect.

Will Playing Music for My Baby Make Her Smarter?

Again, the jury is still out on this question. Some studies have shown that babies exposed to music in utero do better in math-related studies, however others point out the fact that the child in question might have done better in math regardless. One California obstetrician says he has observed a 33-week old fetus time its breathing to the beat of music by Beethoven, however detractors question why this is an accomplishment.

The Mechanics of Playing Music for Your Baby

In order to allow your baby to enjoy the benefits of music in utero, you can either simply play music on your stereo or radio as you go about your day, or you can place the headphones connected to a Walkman or mp3 player around your belly. If you are using headphones, limit the exposure to no more than an hour a day. After all, you are trying to soothe the baby, not over-stimulate her. Amniotic fluid is a very good conductor of sound, and amplifies lower-pitched sounds such as the bass. Whichever method you choose for exposing your baby to music, keep the volume at around 70 decibels, and only play music that is not discordant because studies done on animals have shown that exposure to chaotic music can actually alter the brain in a negative fashion. The bottom line is that you should probably play music because you enjoy it and find it soothing, not in an attempt to pump up your baby's IQ.

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