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  • Writer's pictureLehandra Riley

Music @ Birth: The Power of Prenatal Music

There is no doubt that the world would be a very less interesting and colourful place without the presence of music. It is therefore amazing to note that a person’s music education develops as early as their hearing, which normally starts to happen 16 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

It is amazing to know that from 16 weeks onwards in a pregnancy the baby will start to recognize their mother’s voice and even specific melodies or songs. Therefore, singing to your unborn baby is crucial not only in bonding with him/her, but also in developing musical intelligence. A person’s response and sensitivity to music (no matter how limited) starts to develop intensely as early as during the final trimester and of course immediately after being born.

Paying attention to these factors, making music prenatally and encouraging musicianship after birth, will help to improve your unborn baby’s development in profound ways. One crucial example of this is the fact that the shape of the brain of musicians differ from those of non-musicians. In musicians it is found that the small neural structure in the cerebral cortex, which processes sound signals in the planum temporale, is found to be larger in the left hemisphere than with non-musicians. Musicians are also found to have a larger corpus callosum than non-musicians; this difference was especially evident in musicians who started their training before the age of six.

These findings are based on the MRI scans and studies of Schlaug who suggests that these MRI images reveal that early musical training physically shapes and molds the young brain strengthening existing neural connections and perhaps adding new ones. There are numerous studies available on music and the brain and with the premises of these studies we can conclude that early musical development has long-term effects on brain development and the brain is both pre-wired for music and also anatomically influenced by it.

With the above taken into account I am sure that you have a few questions like: Which music is appropriate to play for my baby before birth? How will music in the delivery room influence the experience and my baby? If I am not a musician how can I encourage musical growth in my child?

I will try and answer these questions as best I can. If you can think of any other questions please let me know by leaving a comment below or emailing me.

Which music is appropriate to play for my baby before birth?

Due to the fact that music tastes vary from person to person this question does not have a definite answer. Your choice of music will depend on which music you find to your liking. I would however recommend music with a steady pulse and soothing timbre. This will help keep the baby calm, since the music you listen to influences your heart rate which in turn influences the heart rate of the baby. There is nothing wrong with listening to upbeat and fast paced music and dancing along to it, as long as you do not strain yourself physically. This movement can also be very beneficial for the baby.

Sticking to simple tunes like nursery rhymes or easy children’s music will be easy for the baby to identify after birth than music of an overly intellectual nature. I do not suggest to dumb down the music, but to keep it simple. The baby will identify the Theme of the Swans from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, just as easily as Row, row, row your Boat. As a point of interest Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was originally written by W.A Mozart as part of his Twelve Variations in C Major. Singing along to the music is a good choice, since the baby can also identify with the vibrations of your voice (same goes for when you play a musical instrument).

How will music in the delivery room influence the experience and my baby?

“When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else. When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her.”

(From: They are singing your song by Alan Cohen)

The music played in the delivery room can be anything the mother-to-be chooses to listen to. The delivery process can be a stressful and painful process for the new mother and therefore she should choose music to aid her in keeping calm and making the delivery as personal, unique and special as possible. According to my research I have read about a mother who screamed in labour pains to the delightful music by Ozzy Osbourne. Therefore literally ANYTHING goes! Having any music (whether noise to one person) as oppose to no music is a better option, since it provides a distraction for the mother and helps her to focus on the birthing process. Talking or singing to someone in the delivery room can also count as a form of music.

If I am not a musician how can I encourage musical growth in my child?

Prenatally you can set aside three to twenty minutes of complete relaxation, where you surrender yourself to your favourite music. According to John Ortiz: “Familiar sounds, particularly those that both Mom and baby can learn to associate with rest and relaxation, can be played after the baby’s arrival to help soothe and calm the newborn child”.

When listening to music you can tap your foot, clap your hands to the beat or sing along (no matter how off tune) and whistle to encourage your unborn baby to pick up on the vibrations. This will definitely make him/her use to music and after birth they will be more interested and inclined to music and sound.

Exposing your child to as many different music genres and instruments is also a great place to start. This will widen his/her musical knowledge and help them ultimately decide which musical instrument they would like to learn how to play.

The main thing here is keeping everything free and fun! When those two factors are met children will not need much (if any) encouragement to sought out music, they will find music and be guided by it all on their own!


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