Using Music To Bond With Your Baby

Whether you sing lullabies to your unborn child or simply enjoy humming your favorite song, some experts believe exposing your baby to music before birth builds more than a strong prenatal bond.
Elissa Sonnenberg

Babies and sound
Pointing to evidence that shows a connection between learning music and brain development, experts contend that even the youngest of babies can benefit from their earliest melodies. Don Campbell, known for his series of books and tapes relating to the "Mozart Effect," or how music impacts learning, maintains that by a baby's fifth month in utero, her brain can fully process sound. Though the pitch of all sounds are muffled by the sea of amniotic fluid, skin and muscle, the melodies and rhythms persist.

In The Mozart Effect for Children, Campbell devotes an entire chapter to the "first melodies of life," or a baby's pre-birth experiences with music. Campbell and other prenatal bonding experts believe parents can use music both to communicate with and solicit reactions from their unborn children. Campbell explains how the ear is the first sensory organ to develop in the womb, then proposes a series of techniques to help parents connect with and enrich the early life of their newest family member.

A happy tune
Here are some simple ways to incorporate music into your regular prenatal routine:

  • Sending a message: Compose a personal song about the love you share for your unborn child. Sing it with your partner, set it to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and repeat it often. Use your creativity as a tool to send a welcoming message to your child, and don't be surprised if your baby calms to the same tune when you repeat it after birth.
  • Taking a break from stress: Every pregnant mother experiences stress, but if you can relax to soothing music, your baby will too. Use music to wind down after a rough day at the office, or hum your special song when you feel your own heart pounding. Make an effort to reassure your baby and protect her from the stress you feel.
  • Playing games: In your last trimester, try tapping a simple, repetitive rhythm and waiting for your baby to respond. Campbell calls this a kind of "Morse code" to let your baby know that you're paying attention to her. He relates stories of couples who created "duets" with their unborn babies by starting simple tapping games and eventually watching their babies respond with taps in return.
  • Birthing to music: Plan on bringing familiar CDs or tapes to the hospital or birthing room. Not only can music help ease and distract, your mind, it may also help relax your baby to hear a familiar tune during a time of great change. Music may lighten the mood in the delivery room, too, and help soothe any tensions that might otherwise disrupt the birth process.

Harmonious benefits
While scientists continue researching the connections between music and neural development, parents and educators continue to attest to the power of music both to inspire and to enhance learning.

Dr. Gordon Shaw, MD, president of the Music Intelligence Neural Development Institute (MIND), believes music can stimulate neural patterns in babies' brains and increase their inherent abilities to learn complex concepts, especially those related to advanced math. Campbell lauds the impact of early music exposure on language and speech development.

"The more we learn about the innate structure of the brain, the more we're going to be able to help parents and educators do the best they can with their kids," says Shaw.

While some parents strongly believe sharing music with their unborn babies taps into a primal language of learning, others use it as a healthy approach to enhance prenatal bonding.

No matter what their motives, parents who provide opportunities for time spent with their babies having fun with music, learning and thinking are sure to see far-reaching benefits for their whole

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