There have been numerous reported cases of children and even adults being very familiar with a song or lullaby that they say they never heard before, such as the musician whose mother practiced a song on an instrument during her pregnancy which she performed while still pregnant. It wasn’t something that she played much after that but her son many years later, when learning a ‘new song,’ kept saying “I know this song.” After mentioning it at a family get together, his mother said, ‘Yes, that is what I practiced and played while I was pregnant with you.”
A recent study at the University of Helsinki reiterated what previous studies have shown, that an infant can recognize a lullaby heard in the womb for many months after their birth. The rhythm patterns in these lullabies are very important to the baby’s auditory, speech, and language development. The sing-song patterns help the child hear, process and recognize the tonal sound pattern differences in our speech patterns. Tonal pattern changes such as ending a question with the voice going upward can be processed better when a child’s brain has had the opportunity to hear, process, integrate and use many different rhythm pattern and tonal pattern changes as early as possible.
The best time to start shaping the brain for auditory input, especially tonal and rhythm pattern changes, is in utero. The ear is functioning by 4 ½ months in utero. Singing simple songs with easy rhythm patterns, singing a lullaby with emotion and feeling, or simply repeating the many nursery rhymes in a sing-song pattern will help shape your baby’s brain for underlying language cues. The University of Helsinki study showed that fetuses can recognize and remember sounds from the ‘outside world’. The researchers anticipate that these formative patterns help shape long term sound input for language development.
Keep singing moms! Lullabies are one way to help your child’s future development.
*Dorinne Davis is an Audiologist and President/Founder of the The Davis Center, the world’s premier sound therapy center. She has authored 5 books and has contributed to numerous other publications in her field. We are privileged to have Dorinne hold a seat on our BabyPlus Scientific Advisory Board.
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