Do you chatter away to your preggy belly? You can stop feeling silly because a study found that babies start to learn language in the womb during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. How cool is that?! If you’re wondering what you should say and whether you should play language apps, the BLANQI Girls have all the deets…
If you’ve ever copped a funny look from someone because you were babbling away to your unborn child in the produce aisle of the supermarket, you’re not alone. One BLANQI Girl admits that she simply couldn’t stop herself from narrating her entire day to her bump.
“I’d talk to myself constantly,” she says. “I’d be at the gas station filling up my car and I’d be like, ‘Hey, Bean’… that was my nickname for my son when he was a fetus because I’d read that he was the size of a bean at one stage… ‘Hey Bean, Mommy’s putting gas in the car now.’ Or, “Beany boy, Mommy loves you so much.’ People would always look at me like I’d lost my marbles, especially when they hadn’t seen that I was pregnant. But I didn’t care. It made me feel close to him.”
Little did our mouthy mama know that she was already laying the foundation for language development. According to a groundbreaking study conducted across two countries, babies as young as seven hours old are able to distinguish between their native tongue and a foreign language.
Researchers placed pacifiers that were connected to computers in the mouths of newborn babies from Sweden and the U.S. They then measured the infants’ reactions to vowel sounds in their native language and a foreign one by counting the number of times they sucked on the pacifier. In both countries, the babies sucked longer when they heard vowels in a foreign language because the unfamiliarity of these sounds attracted their attention.
Although we’ve known for a long time that the sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing are fully developed at 30 weeks of pregnancy, this is the first study to find that babies start to learn basic sounds from their native language while they’re in the womb. It was previously believed that babies only started to learn at birth.
Another BLANQI mama admits that even though none of this had been proven when she gave birth to her first child in 2012, she regularly placed headphones on her belly and played Italian, French and classical music CDs to her unborn daughter. “I’d heard about the Mozart effect, which says that babies who listen to Mozart become smarter. I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try, and I thought, ‘Why not try foreign languages too?’ I realize now that I was a little overenthusiastic and that all that effort was probably for nothing. But I guess it didn’t do any harm either.”
Well, it depends who you ask. While most experts agree that it’s completely safe to talk to your baby as much as you like while they’re in your belly, the study authors and other experts advise against using headphones on your bump because the womb is already very noisy and playing language or music could be too much. Instead, they recommend trusting the natural process and speaking to your baby in a calm and soothing manner as often as possible in the third trimester.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Mozart effect is unfounded. After a small study conducted in 1993 found that young adults who listened to Mozart experienced a temporary boost in their ability to perform spatial tasks, the media went wild with the idea that listening to Mozart makes humans smarter and parents everywhere started playing his music to their baby bumps.
But not only did that study and several subsequent ones only find a temporary improvement in subjects’ ability to perform certain tasks after listening to Mozart, none of them were conducted on babies or children. And when one large study finally did test the Mozart effect on schoolkids, it discovered that children who listened to pop music before performing a task did better than those who listened to Mozart.
So, unless you’re a diehard Mozart fan or you happen to have a burning desire to learn a second language while you’re seven months pregnant, you can cancel your app subscriptions and pack your belly headphones away.
As with so many parenting issues, following your instinct and trying not to put too much pressure on yourself is the way to go. All your baby really needs is for you to voice your hopes, dreams and daily mundanities as often as possible during your pregnancy. If it helps them learn some language basics before they’re born, that’s great. But more importantly, it will help you forge a deep sense of connection with the tiny human in your tummy.
“I swear my daughter recognized my voice from the moment she was born,” says one BLANQI mama. “When I spoke to her, she became very calm, still and attentive. But when anyone else spoke to her, she just went about her baby business. I’d spoken to her every day from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I told her how much I loved her and how deeply her dad and I wanted her because we’d gone through six rounds of IVF to have her. I have no proof that speaking to her made her smarter or understand language faster or any of that. But I feel from the bottom of my heart that it created a strong bond between us that can never broken.”
Nawwwww! Happy chatting, mamas.
The BLANQI Girls xoxo