We all love music. Music can make us smile, sing, relax, fall asleep, or even remind us of something or someone special. For an unborn infant, music also prepares the ear and brain to listen, integrate and produce language sounds. On-going research of the effects of prenatal music stimulation has been in progress for decades; however, the benefits of prenatal music are not just for your unborn baby. In fact, recent scientific research has shown that there are a number of benefits for both mom and baby associated with playing music during pregnancy. Music helps create a wonderful bonding experience for mom and baby, reduce stress levels during pregnancy, enhance the stimulation of your unborn baby’s growing brain, and improve sleeping patterns for a newborn baby.
Being pregnant for the first time can be a surreal experience for some women. Making a connection with your unborn baby can strengthen the bond you share and enhance both of your lives. Studies have shown that sharing is one of the best ways to establish a relationship, and what better way to share your love of music with your unborn baby than playing your favorite tunes? Mom and baby listening to music together creates a wonderful bonding and sharing experience. Exposing a baby to music in the womb means not only sharing your musical preferences, but also allows the baby to use music as a way of connecting with his/her new mom. Studies show that mothers who played music and read to their babies during pregnancy feel a stronger maternal bond and reported less symptoms of post-partum depression as compared to mothers who didn’t use any type of prenatal stimulation.
Pregnancy, Stress and Music
Pregnancy can be an extremely stressful time, and there are many negative side effects associated with stress during pregnancy. Studies show that very high levels of stress may contribute to an increased risk of premature delivery, low birth weights, and increased risk of behavioral problems in children.
Vivette Glover, Professor of Perinatal Psychobiology at Imperial College in London, said in an article in World Medical News, that, “Prenatal stress hugely grows the likelihood of a child having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive delay, anxiousness and depression. Stressed mothers also produce babies with lower birth weight, which can be an indicator for coronary heart condition in later life.”
Further, when the mother is experiencing high levels of stress, the unborn child has been shown to respond and react to the increased levels of cortisol (stress hormone), muscle tension, and emotional anxiety. Remember that just as what you eat affects your baby, so too does your stress level. It is important to minimize stress and anxiety during pregnancy to provide your baby with an optimal environment in which to grow. One great way to do this is by listening to music to unwind and reduce stress during pregnancy. This time of relaxation produces serotonin and endorphins (“happy hormones”), which are transferred to the baby through the placenta. Listening to calming music also reduces stress hormones, relaxes muscles, and promotes a state of well being for both mom and baby.
Prenatal sounds form an important developmental component because they provide a foundation for later learning and behavior. Wilfried Gruhn, Emeritus Professor of Music Education at the University of Music in Freiburg, Germany said in an article published by the International Society for Music Education that, “Music stimulates the growth of brain structures and connects many activated brain areas. Learning is based on the plasticity of the brain, which is the most powerful in the early years; however, it keeps going over the entire life span. Brain development is basically determined by its genetic disposition, but its individual structure depends on use. The brain develops according to how we use it. All experiences are stored in the brain and influence its neural structure.”
Additionally, TV show host, Dr. Oz was quoted in an article he co-wrote with Dr. Michael Roizen saying, “We encourage moms-to-be to listen to all kinds of music during and after pregnancy. This will help stimulate baby’s senses and improve his/her brain development. Exposure to different sounds and scenes is essentially what helps establish connections from one set of neurons – the nerve cells of the brain – to another. This is how we all learn.”
It seems the experts agree that there are numerous benefits to prenatal music stimulation.
Prenatal Music and Sleep
There’s nothing like the sight of a peacefully sleeping baby. Many new parents will tell you, it’s a sight they don’t see often! A newborn should be sleeping 16 to 17 hours a day for optimum health, and sleeping through the night by three months, or until they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. A baby’s sleep patterns are important because studies have shown adverse effects later in life when babies don’t get enough sleep.
Babies remember music they hear in the womb. Familiar music captures a baby’s attention and comforts and relaxes them. Exciting new studies found that children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb, for at least a year after birth. Dr Alexandra Lamont from the Music Research Group at the University of Leicester was quoted in a segment of the BBC’s “Child Of Our Time Today,” saying, “We know that the fetus in the womb is able to hear fully only 20 weeks after conception. Now we have discovered that babies can remember and prefer music that they heard before they were born over 12 months later.” Babies who hear the same music that was played while in the womb fall asleep faster and sleep longer than babies who did not hear music. Playing the same music after birth can help establish a better sleeping pattern for baby, which in turn lets parents get more sleep.
Overall, there are many benefits for both mom and baby associated with listening to prenatal music — from early bonding and stress reduction to the encouragement of early brain development and improvement of a baby’s sleeping habits. Playing music during your pregnancy is one of many proactive steps an expecting mother can take to ensure the well being of your unborn baby.
Article was written by Adrianne Godart, founder of the Lullabelly Prenatal Music Belt. Godart, also a liscensed massage therapist who focuses on prenatal massage, invented the Lullabelly as a way to combine her love for music and positive relaxation techniques.