Hey, soon-to-be moms, don't stop talking to the baby in your belly. New research shows your little one is already learning about language and speech even as he slumbers in your womb.
Moms instinctively know that talking to their unborn baby is a good thing. In fact, according to experts in an article in the New York Times, newborns can recognize the voices they heard during their last trimester in the womb and preferred the voice of their mom over a stranger’s voice. Yes, from the sound of your voice, your baby knows you are her mother from the moment she is born.
Not only that, but babies also preferred the language that they heard you use while in the womb, considering other languages as foreign sounding, explained Anne Cutler, a psycholinguist and professor at Western Sydney University in Australia.
Now, a recent study shows that babies are already picking up subtle but fundamental points about the language they heard in the utero, a skill previously thought to develop around the first year of life.
Published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers “looked at Dutch-speaking adults, some of whom had been adopted from Korea, but none of whom spoke Korean,” reported the New York Times. All of the adults were raised by Dutch families. Some, however, were born in Korea and adopted as babies or toddlers. Upon trying to learn Korean, results showed that those who were born in Korea did significantly better at learning the language than those born into Dutch families.
What’s more, this was true even if the Korean-born individuals were adopted even before they were 6 months old. It would mean that, before birth and as babies, they were already taking in and paying attention to sound and language they heard before they could speak.
The takeaway? “Talk to your baby,” says Dr. Cutler. “It’s something they really love, the social interaction of you talking with them, but they’re still storing up useful knowledge whenever they hear speech.”
The opportunity to talk to your baby any time is endless. The simple daily activities that you do together already make great conversation. When you’re bathing your baby, for example, point and name her body parts. Talk and describe what you’re doing, like shampooing her hair or pouring water on her belly. Whenever you’re outside together, point and names things as you pass them. At home, picture books allow for a great story and chat time, too. (Find local ones we love here.) You can also sing nursery rhymes and recite silly poems.
Make sure you maintain eye contact while you talk to your little one as well. Babies a little older will be able to react to your words using body language or babbles. Respond back to encourage her more. Try to avoid too much screen exposure as well. Yes, it might seem like a good way to expose your child to a wider vocabulary, but then your child misses out on crucial social interaction.
“We strongly discourage the exposure of the child to TV shows, gadgets, and video games from 0-3 years. I have seen many hyperactive children nowadays who are speech delayed and with poor social and fine motor skills because of too much exposure to TV and gadgets,” pediatrician Dr. Sonia Buenaventura told SmartParenting.com.ph.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below 18 months avoid screens altogether, except only when it’s used for video-chatting. Children a little older, those between 18 and 24 months, are allowed screens provided that parents choose high-quality programming such as age-appropriate educational children’s shows.