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  • How the Science of Sound Helps Your Unborn and Newborn Baby
    Copyright 2002, Reg Furlough

    The transition from the womb to the real world is a very 
    challenging time period for our children. Leaving the womb 
    (where every need and comfort is satisfied on a round-the-clock 
    basis) to a world where the baby must rely upon others to 
    provide her wants and needs, is an abrupt and shocking 
    experience. Some babies adjust well, while others do not. 
    How can you give your newborn infant a head start in life, 
    even before she's born?
    All you have to do is. . . .listen.
    In utero, beginning at about 7 months, babies have the ability 
    to receive stimulus from the outside world. It is known that 
    the fetus at this stage has already formed the abilities to 
    see, hear and feel. 
    This is no new age view or old wives' tale.  
    In 500 BCE, Confucius stated a clear belief that we can 
    influence a child's behavior through the stimulation we give 
    our children in utero. Dating back to even before Confucius, 
    people believed that children in the womb are able to receive 
    stimulus from the world outside of the womb. Through the ages, 
    gestation rituals were developed, including dancing and music, 
    to stimulate the growing fetus.
    In 1924, Albrecht Peiper, a Leipzig University pediatrician, 
    confirmed prenatal response to outside stimuli by observing a 
    baby kicking when a car horn was sounded. To this day, science 
    continues to validate the influence of the external world upon 
    the fetus.
    Most notably, current research shows that by conditioning our 
    babies during pregnancy to soothing sounds that can be 
    replicated after birth, we can transfer the comfortable 
    feelings of the womb to our newborns in the postnatal world.
    There are three distinct sounds that are known to instill a 
    sense of calm in even the fussiest baby: music, white noise 
    and sounds of nature.
    * The Power of Music *
    Thomas Verny, M.D., author of The Secret Life of the Unborn 
    Child (Dell, 1994) said in his book, "Musicologists seem to 
    agree that rhythms, similar to the mother's heartbeat, have 
    the most calming effect" on babies in utero.
    Others suggest the recognized power of the lullaby can be 
    acquired by speaking softly and rhythmically to your baby. 
    A lullaby is defined as "A soothing song with which to lull 
    a child to sleep."
    According to Giselle Whitwell in her article, The Importance 
    of Prenatal Sound and Music: 
       "The elements of music, namely tonal pitch, timbre, 
       intensity and rhythm, are also elements used in speaking 
       a language. For this reason, music prepares the ear, body 
       and brain to listen to, integrate and produce language 
    In essence, playing lullabies during pregnancy can help provide 
    your baby with her first language lessons, as well as promote 
    a sense of calm in both mother and fetus. 
    * The Soothing Sh-h-h-h of White Noise *	
    Many scientists and physicians, including Dr. Harvey Karp, an 
    expert in treating colicky babies and author of "The Happiest 
    Baby on the Block" (www.thehappiestbaby.com), suggest that 
    there are things that parents can do to help your baby "feel 
    like they are back home in the comfort of the womb." 
    In stories appearing on ABC's Good Morning America and in 
    Newsweek, Dr. Karp has suggested that parents can use white 
    noise in the bedroom at the same volume as the crying baby 
    to help quiet the unhappy baby.
    As noted on Pure White Noise.com (http://www.purewhitenoise.com),
    white noise is not a noise at all; it's a sound frequency known 
    to have a calming effect on both children and adults.  Examples 
    of white noise include the sound of ocean waves gently caressing 
    the shore, a rain shower, a waterfall, or the wind blowing 
    through the trees. 
    Why white noise for the newborn? As quoted in a June, 2002 
    issue of People Magazine, Karp notes that "Fetuses are barraged 
    by sensory input, from the whoosh of blood through the mother's 
    arteries to the rocking of her every move.
    "Inside the uterus, the baby is tightly confined and hears a 
    constant sound that's a little louder than a vacuum cleaner."  
    Such stimuli, he theorizes, trigger a "calming reflex" that 
    keeps fetuses from acting up.
    For many babies, especially crying babies with colic, the 
    monotony of an external noise is especially soothing. (How 
    often have you gotten drowsy with the gentle sound of a 
    motor running?) That's why many pediatricians like Dr. Karp 
    recommend white noise as part of a baby's sleep regimen.
    * The Comforting Rhythms of Nature *
    The abrupt transition from the womb to the real world for a 
    newborn can also be eased by familiar sounds such as a mother's 
    heartbeat. It has been noted often that playing recordings of a 
    heartbeat can comfort and calm a newborn baby. 
    Other sounds of nature, such as the gentle yet rhythmic sound 
    of the ocean surf, or the running water sound of a babbling 
    brook, can help calm infants or help them fall asleep safely 
    and naturally.
    Between song, familiar sounds from the womb and white noise, 
    there are many options available to comfort our babies. 
    Soothing sounds such as these all have a calming affect 
    over infants. The good news is that as parents, we can take 
    advantage of the spellbinding power of sound to comfort our 
    There are many sources of nature sounds, white noise and 
    lullabies in the marketplace.  However, there's a doctor-
    approved resource that combines the best of all three sound 
    elements into ear-pleasing recordings: http://SleepLullabies.com
    By combining rhythmic lullaby music and traditional nursery 
    rhymes with soothing nature sounds and the beneficial sounds 
    of white noise, SleepLullabies.com has developed specially 
    blended musical recordings that help comfort crying, fussy 
    babies and infants with colic. 
    Available in both instrumental and vocal formats on CD and 
    audio tape, SleepLullabies.com lullaby music is played in the 
    neonatal and pediatric units of many major hospitals to calm 
    and soothe newborns. Why not do the same at home?
    As a reminder, The Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, 
    Connecticut recommends that "If you can't find ways to console 
    your baby, call your doctor. There could be medical reasons for 
    your baby's fussiness."
    Even adding this music to the bedtime ritual enriches the 
    bonding experience between parent and child, as well as creates 
    a tranquil mood for relaxation and sleep.
    Before or after birth, sound has shown itself to be a very 
    powerful force in the lives of our young. Whether stimulating 
    the growth of the fetus or calming and quieting our newborn, 
    specific sounds will deliver positive results to babies and 
    parents alike. 

    Reg Furlough is the head of Reg Furlough Productions, an award-winning audio research and development studio since 1985. His expertise in white noise and sound technology has successfully benefited thousands of children and adults. For more information, contact mailto:rfurlough@sleeplullabies.com or visit: http://www.sleeplullabies.com

    This article was originally written: July, 2002

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