Prenatal Reading

Should you read to your baby in the womb?

Is it possible to influence a baby's intelligence while it is still in the womb? Some experts believe this is possible, while others disagree. What we do know, through the aid of ultrasound technology, is that while a baby is growing physically in the mother's womb, it is also developing all of its senses.

By the 7th week, the baby develops touch receptors on the lips and cheeks, which spread all over the body in the next six months. By the 15th week, the baby's nose has started to develop. By the 18th week, the baby's taste buds can distinguish flavours in the amniotic fluid. By the 25th week, the ears have formed, enabling him or her to hear the mother's voice and possibly the father's, if he is near enough to the mother. In a few more weeks, the baby may even recognize these voices. In week 26, the baby's eyes start to open and later can respond to changes in light. All of these developments mean it may be possible to stimulate the baby's senses before birth.

The most important thing a mother can do during pregnancy is to look after her health. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Get lots of rest, which your body demands, especially in the first trimester. Take supplements, such as folic acid, calcium or iron, according to your doctor's advice. Most importantly, keep your spirits up, no matter how stressful things may be, as happier mothers produce happier babies.

In addition, you could stimulate the baby's sense of taste and smell by eating a variety of foods. You could touch the baby gently, especially when it starts kicking. You can also speak, sing and talk to your baby. Due to the amniotic fluid in the baby's ears, it cannot hear very well through the ears; however, it can hear through vibrations in the skull. That is why the mother's voice can be "heard" most easily. (Refrain from getting angry or shouting, as the baby will pick up on all sounds, including the stressful ones.)

Get into the habit of reading particular stories or singing songs while you are pregnant. Although the baby cannot understand the words, it can pick up patterns of speech and intonation. Sing lullabies, read poems or your favourite books as a child. Many parents like to read Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. Some studies have shown that newborn babies become calmer when they hear the same stories and songs they heard while in the womb. So speak, read and communicate with your baby. You will be bonding with your little one and exposing your baby to the sounds of your voice as well as of your native language.

Instrumental music can also help to soothe both you and the baby. Choose music with bass, percussion and piano sounds, as these will be picked up more easily through the fluids of the amniotic sac. Enjoy and relax with your baby, as you listen to whatever type of music you most enjoy.

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