By SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
A possible solution to premature babies language difficulties
Pro-lifers have long known that unborn babies respond to sounds from as early as the fourth month after conception – including their mother’s heartbeat and voice. Indeed, studies in the 1980s found that babies learn to recognise their mothers’ voices and even recognise stories that are read to them in the womb.
But there’s also evidence that the mother’s voice plays an important part in shaping the brain for hearing and language development.
Born too soon
Babies born prematurely are more than twice as likely to have difficulty hearing and processing words than those carried to full-term. Once babies in the womb start to hear, they mostly hear low frequency sounds, such as their mother’s heartbeat, and the melody and rhythm of her voice. Researchers believe that the introduction of melody and rhythm of speech to a baby, prior to hearing individual words, may be a key part of early language acquisition that gets disrupted when a baby is born early.
This theory has received support when researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston asked the parents of forty premature babies in incubators to take part in an experiment. Half of the mothers made recordings of themselves reading and singing, which, along with audio of their heartbeats, was played to their babies for three hours a day. The other half received standard care, only hearing routine hospital noise.
The power of a mother’s voice
After 30 days, they compared ultrasound images of the brains of both groups. The researchers found that those infants who heard the maternal sounds had a significantly larger auditory cortex—the part of the brain that controls hearing and processing of sounds—compared with that of the other babies. Hearing their mother’s voice rather than environmental noise actually boosted the babies’ brains.
“The results of this study suggest that in the case of babies born prematurely, exposure to maternal sounds may set the auditory cortex of the brain on the right trajectory for completing its maturation outside the womb,” explained study co-author Amir Lahav, ScD., assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
It also confirms what pro-lifers have known all along – that mothers and babies have a special bond long before birth!