Pregnancy and Parenting Features

Babies Remember Prenatal Music

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sean MacEntee

We’ve often heard about the benefits of playing music for your baby while they’re in the womb. There is some evidence to show that babies who are exposed to certain types of music while you’re still pregnant may actually perform better in school, and have improved health. We also know that babies in the womb are able to hear their mother’s voice clearly, as well as conversations that take place nearby. Now there is a study that suggests babies can actually remember music that they’ve heard in the womb after they’re born.

This discovery underscores the fact that human hearing develops during the final trimester of pregnancy. By the time babies are just five weeks from being born, the portion of the inner ear that is responsible for hearing has typically matured.

The researchers tested this by playing specific melodies so that infants inside the womb could hear it. The mothers were to play a recording – of just a basic piano melody that descends in pitch – from weeks 35 through 37 of pregnancy.

When the babies reached one month of age after birth, the babies were brought into the researcher’s lab again. The same piano melody was played for the baby at that time. What researchers discovered as truly interesting.

The babies’ heartbeats slowed by around 12 beats per minute when the familiar melody was played. The researchers also played an unfamiliar ascending melody for control purposes. The babies’ heartrates slowed an average of five beats per minute with that melody.

What this tells us is that, even though the babies hadn’t heard the melody for six weeks, they still paid more attention to it than a brand new melody. This may explain why newborns tend to be more attentive to their mothers’ voices than voices of other people, even other women whose voices may have a similar pitch.

So, what about you? Did you play music for your little one before she was born? If so, did she seem to be soothed by that music when played for her again, after she was born?