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.
THE "IN UTERO" EXPERIENCE
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
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.
SOUNDS THAT SOOTHE, BEFORE AND AFTER BIRTH
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
A TRIAD OF SOUND TO HELP RELAX BOTH PARENT AND BABY
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