Why You should Start Reading to your Newborn from Day One

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
Some women wonder at what point they should begin reading to their baby. At age three months, six months or a year? At what point is a baby cognitive to understanding?
According to a study done over a year ago by a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, the answer is rather surprising. Babies can actually absorb information before they are born! During the last ten weeks of pregnancy, research shows that a baby is listening and becoming familiar with the mother’s voice, tone and movement. Even more surprising is that the baby is able to learn and remember. How can this be so?
A technologically advanced pacifier was hooked up to a computer that measured eighty newborn babies. These infants were no more than thirty hours old. The babies chosen were from Washington State and from the country of Sweden. Vowel sounds were made in the infant’s native language, as well as a foreign language, while the babies sucked on the high-tech pacifier. Certain vowel sounds attracted the babies’ attention, indicating their interest.
This revelation means that mothers can bond with their babies and start reading to them, even while the baby is “brewing in the oven”. Although there is no evidence that doing so will make the baby smarter, it does reveal an astonishing aspect of a child’s ability to learn and develop even before it is born.
Many expectant mothers are too busy preparing for the baby’s birth to dip into the collection of Dr. Seuss books quite yet, although it might be something to consider as a new mother. At the very least, you can begin reading to your baby from the time it is born, rather than waiting until the baby is a few months old. Not only is this a great way to bond with your child and allow your child to become familiar with the sound of your voice, it can be very soothing and relaxing both for you and your baby.

Think about how comfortable and relaxed you feel while reading a book that is not work related, perhaps on those lazy Sunday afternoons when you do find time to unwind. When you feel relaxed from a good book, it sets a positive tone for your day. This is also true with children. Sometimes reading a book to a fussy child can also soothe the baby, and for any mother who has tried many things and found that nothing seems to work, don’t overlook the possibility of story time!

Another study done more recently at the University of Florida revealed that within the last trimester of pregnancy, babies who were told nursery rhymes by their mother proved to be more attentive, proving that they were able to learn and remember. In fact, the unborn baby can hear other sounds of your household, whether it is an older brother or sister, the sound of your family dog barking, and parents speaking to one another. Aside from the reading aspect, this means that your family can actually talk to the baby and it will respond favorably. The infant will already be familiar with the sounds of the household even before it meets the external world for the first time.

Rising to these new studies, some new children’s book authors have come out with books for expectant moms to read to their “bellies”. Don’t be afraid to sing songs, play music that you find enjoyable, or even dance. Your unborn baby will begin learning at a very early age if you start these fun habits from the very first day of life.


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