Your Baby Plays and Learns in the Womb

by Julie Snyder daddy feeling baby's movement

Jonathan's playing with his tiny daughter.

He touches her foot.

She kicks his hand away, smiles and waits.

Nothing unusual until you learn his baby won't even be born for a couple of more months.

Parents have known for a long time that their babies in the womb respond to the world around them.

Now experts agree that your baby is alert, playing and learning every day.

Grooving to the Beat

Music sets imaginations soaring. That magical power might start earlier than we thought.

  • Baby begins to hear sounds around 17 weeks
  • By 26 weeks, the heartbeat speeds up in response to sounds, including music
  • At 33 weeks, tiny tots have been observed breathing in time to music
  • At 38 weeks, your baby reacts differently to different genres

I remember going to a friend's party at a bar when I was about 22 weeks with my son. He would kick/punch/move in time to the bass drum. It was really neat and my husband could feel it, too. Our baby could definitely hear and respond to music at that point. ~Marilyn, Pregnancy.org member

Chatting It Up

Baby hears during pregnancy

Expectant mothers in France repeated a child's rhyme three times a day from week 33 to 37 gestational age.

After four weeks of daily rhymes, babies recognized the rhyme they had heard but showed no recognition of a different rhyme.

Babies in the womb react specifically to mommy's voice by increasing their heart rate.

When strangers spoke their heart rate decreases.

Why? "Baby is trying to figure out who's talking," says Barbara Kisilevsky, nursing professor at Queens University in Ontario.

Everytime the kids would talk or sing, the baby would kick -- I think it liked their voices. It was just so cool to see baby react to outside responses. ~Sandy, Pregnancy.org member

Baby Gourmet

Julie Mennella, from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia says flavors are passed to your baby via the amniotic fluid and has discovered babies remember their early meals. Add a sweetener to the amniotic fluid, and your baby gourmet swallows twice as fast; add something sour and swallowing slows.

Stranger Danger

Too loud! According to Dr. Thomas Verney, a five-month-old fetus will react to a loud sound by raising his hands and covering his ears.

Dodge danger: "Every time my doctor put the wand on my belly, they'd swim away, twist around and kick it," a Pregnancy.org member shares.

Babies in the womb react fearfully, defensively, and sometimes aggressively during amniocentesis when a needle enters their private territory.

Dr. David Chamberlain writes of a baby struck accidentally by a needle during an ultrasound. He not only twisted away, but located the needle barrel and hit it repeatedly. WOW!

Strong emotions: Babies react to their mother's emotions.

"I had to stop watching 28 Days Later. My baby was so upset. She was kicking and rolling. Once I left, she settled right down," says Liz, whose baby is due in two months.

Researchers believe that a stressed mother creates stress hormones called catecholamines. Baby smiling in womb

These chemical stressors cross the placenta and "frighten" your baby's developing nervous system.

Your unborn baby already listens, observes and remembers.

Try playing a game together - there is no right and wrong way as long as it's safe!

Share your favorite kid's book, favorite song, or poetry.

Touch your bump and talk, get to know one another.

Expand your and baby's culinary palate and see how they react.

It's never too early to connect!