Use sound to soothe your unborn and newborn baby!



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How the Science of Sound Helps 
Your Unborn and Newborn Baby

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 sounds." 

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" , 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 , 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 children. 

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: 

By combining rhythmic lullaby music and traditional nursery rhymes with soothing nature sounds and the beneficial sounds of white noise, 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, 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. 

About the Author:

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 or visit: Sleep Lullabies

Copyright  2002, Reg Furlough 


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