Before looking at how parents can enjoy interacting with their baby, the very first thing to pay attention to is Mom's health. Naturally, the physical environment of the womb - and the whole of the mother's body - is critical to a baby's growth and development.
High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone responsible for the body's fight-or-flight response) in pregnancy are associated with babies who cry more and sleep less after birth.
Chronic stress in pregnancy has also been linked with low birth weight in babies. It's therefore in everyone's interests for Mom to pay extra attention to her emotional state, making relaxation and stress reduction two of her top priorities.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, life is stressful during pregnancy. If this is the case for you, then be sure to take time out regularly to do something that soothes you - be it yoga, meditation, listening to your favorite music, watching your favorite TV show, or taking a warm bath (but avoid very hot water, which is bad for the baby).
The importance of the physiological effects brought on by such activities can hardly be overstated. The simple act of relaxing deeply will alter the chemical composition of your blood, reducing cortisol levels and improving immune function. Not only is this good for your baby's developing nervous and immune systems, but you will feel stronger and less frazzled, too - particularly as you contend with the dramatic physical changes of the third trimester.
Mom will of course also want to keep her energy levels up in preparation for the birth. Now is the time for the whole family to pull together and help Mom and the baby be as healthy and happy as possible - by encouraging Mom to eat well and get plenty of rest, by reminding her to take her pregnancy supplements (pregnant women can be very forgetful!), and by helping her to remain as calm and relaxed as possible.
Now that we've taken care of Mom's physical and emotional well-being, which have a direct impact on the health of the baby, it's time to find out how we can stimulate the baby's awakening senses - in appropriate ways and at appropriate times.
A Mother…Perfect teacher…for her classroom of WOMB…
Research also indicates that at 28 weeks, a baby responds to sounds in the same way he will outside the womb. Heartbeat and breathing slow down when you play soft music and speed up with fast tunes. Because of these findings, some experts say parents should give their babies a head start on later learning by stimulating them in utero.
Bonding and Brain Development: Listening to sounds and music while in the womb allows babies to form strong bonds with their moms and supports their brain development: “We strongly endorse that practice—not just for brain development but also to allow your baby to hear your voice and establish an auditory bond at an early age.”
What baby hears most clearly comes through the vibrations of skull. For this reason, Mom's voice has a unique resonance. As for sounds from outside the womb, low-pitched frequencies travel best through liquids. Listening to classical music is great if Mom enjoys it, but your baby probably won't be able to hear the string section.
Because Mom's voice stands out, it is uniquely soothing to the baby - both before and after birth. Studies have shown that unborn babies slow their swallowing while listening to their mother's voice. Soon after birth, babies show a distinct preference for their mother's voice and the language she speaks.
But there's good news for Dad too - because low frequencies travel well through water, your deeper voice should be audible and recognizable to the baby, as long as you are close enough to Mom's pregnant belly.
This "auditory exercise" strengthens learning ability during the developmental period when the advantages will be most significant and enduring for a child. However, scientifically conducted studies show that the prenatal child recognizes the maternal heartbeat and can learn to differentiate progressively more rhythmic patterns of that sound.
Read and sing!
Build a strong bond with your baby during pregnancy. Studies have shown that the brain is most receptive during the prenatal period. So, by creating the right kind of environment, you can help develop your babys emotional, creative, social, and intellectual capabilities.
And later in life demonstrate:
- Earlier developmental milestones
- Enhanced intellectual abilities
- Longer attention spans
- Improved school readiness
- Greater creativity & independency
The unborn child receives very little stimulation in the uterus. The only sound that it can clearly discern is the maternal heartbeat. By providing the infant with sounds which closely mimic the maternal heartbeat but which vary in subtly increasing ways, the child's brain learns one of the most basic skills of all - discrimination - before she/he is born.
Whether the maternal heart speeds or slows due to exercise, emotion, stress, or sleep, changes in its rate are relatively consistent, therefore they imprint, unlike other sonic stimuli in the mother's environment - all reaching the unborn child but nonsensical, merely meaningless white noise with no opportunity to imprint; both extreme simplicity and repetition are required for this very special kind of learning, a critical phase which ends with birth.
Just by taking time out of every day to talk, read and sing to your baby, you will enable him to get to know the two of you long before baby is born. This in turn will help to feel more secure during first days in the strange new environment of the outside world. If certain stories or songs become a part of your pregnancy routine, then this is something you can use to your advantage after the birth.
Your unborn baby can recognize patterns of speech and intonation (if not individual words), with vowel sounds coming through particularly clearly. Studies have shown that newborns are soothed by hearing the same stories and songs they were used to listening to in the womb. You will almost certainly want to play music to your baby during pregnancy. Because low frequencies travel better through liquids, bass and percussion instruments, and the low notes on the piano, will be most audible. It doesn't matter what kind of music you choose though, provided it's pleasant to listen to - for the two of you as well as the baby. The way the music makes Mom feel is actually the most important factor.
So enjoy this special time, as the three of you get to know one other before your baby's long-awaited arrival. As your baby grows larger and more visible, you will increasingly enjoy the time you spend interacting as a family. When baby is awake and active, baby may respond to your voices with a kick or sudden "swimming" movement. You will begin to realize that your baby is listening, really listening, to her parents' voices. And isn't it great to know that when it does come time for your baby to leave the sanctuary of the womb, baby will already recognize and be comforted by the voices of the two of you - the two people who love baby more than anyone else in the world.
Every prenatal child experiences the sonic environment of his or her mother: outside voices, traffic, television, radio, and CDs. The sounds generated by this outside stimuli pass through the abdominal wall, which lowers the volume by about 35 decibels and muffles the sounds. For the baby, it is much like listening to sounds underwater. Even though the baby is exposed to these sounds, they pass by him as white noise because they are too complex and the baby has no frame of reference for them as sounds.
Listening to music is a pleasurable experience, and certain types of classical music can have a calming effect on a pregnant mother. Since the prenatal baby can sense a mother's mood, the mother's emotional state can have a corresponding calming affect on the baby. However, music is not 'basic' enough to be the most effective prenatal curriculum. Researchers says that the most dominant sound heard by the baby is the mother's pulsing heartbeats. This heartbeat occurs naturally at about 1 beat per second. The baby's heartbeat is approximately 2 beats per second. As the baby develops and hears these two sounds repeatedly, they become imprinted in the baby's cognitive architecture. They become the permanent foundation upon which all learning will be built.
Read on to learn about how your baby's senses and intelligence develop during her incredible journey inside the womb.
Week 7 - Your baby's first touch receptors develop in his lips and cheeks. Over the next six months these will spread to everywhere else in his body.
Week 11-15 - Your baby's nose is developing.
Week 13-15 - Your baby already possesses mature taste buds. Baby can detect strong flavors in the amniotic fluid, and will increase swallowing in response to sweet tastes.
Week 18 - Your baby's ears and brain have developed sufficiently for him to begin to hear mother's heartbeat and voice, and the sound of blood rushing through the umbilical cord.
Week 25 - Your baby's ears are structurally complete. Baby can now clearly hear mother's voice and perhaps father's (if he is close enough). Baby will also startle in response to loud noises. By week 27 baby may be able to recognize parents' voices.
Week 26 - Your baby's eyes open and start blinking! Baby will be able to see dim shapes by week 33, when the pupils of baby’s eyes begin adjusting to changes in light.
Week 28 - Your baby can taste more subtle flavors and is swallowing around a liter of amniotic fluid a day. Baby is also aware of odors. Until recently scientists believed that breathing was required for smelling. It's now thought, however, that a baby picks up smells from the amniotic fluid as it passes over the nasal cavities. It's likely that a baby's first tastes and smells help prepare for drinking breast milk, which changes flavor according to what the mother has been eating.
Week 32 - Touch receptors have spread to all parts of your baby's body, making it universally sensitive to temperature, pain and pressure.
You are taking a prenatal vitamin to enrich your child’s earliest physical development. Well, your child’s learning begins during these prenatal months too!
Take care of your unborn baby.
The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)