Can You Hear Me?
Yes, and sooner than you might think! By 18 weeks, a baby can hear the sound of your heartbeat and loud noises from the outside world. By 25 weeks, he can begin to distinguish the voices of those closest to him—especially those of his parents.
Don't be afraid to bond with your belly. Get into the habit of relaxing in a glider with your favorite childhood book and reading to your baby every evening. These relaxing prenatal reading sessions will help you get a head start on bonding with your little one through books, and will expose your baby to the basic sounds that will form the foundation of his native language.
Your voice is the most familiar and soothing sound to your unborn baby. Studies have found that an unborn baby’s heart rate slows down when his mother is speaking, indicating a sense of calm. By spending time talking to and reading to your baby, you can start bonding with him before he enters the world. Don’t wait until birth to share favorite lullabies and stories—whenever you have a few minutes to spare, grab a book and read aloud or sing to your baby before turning in for the night. Don’t be surprised if you notice him physically responding to your voice.
All in the Family
While his mother’s voice will probably be the most familiar to an unborn baby, also encourage other family members and close friends to talk and sing to your belly. This will help your baby associate their voices with love, safety, and comfort, so he’ll be more likely to feel comfortable with them as a newborn. This "team communication" can also serve as a strengthening bond between parents.
Sound it Out
While we hear sound firsthand, it has to travel a bit farther to get to your unborn baby. His ears are covered in a thick coating of vernix, the waxy substance that protects his skin. There are also some other layers the sound has to get through, such as your belly and uterus. Given all of these factors, it’s rather surprising that your unborn baby can hear sounds with impressive clarity, although they’ll be somewhat lower in volume than when you hear them. At this stage, enunciation isn’t as important as hearing the tones and cadences of his parents’ voices.
Don’t be alarmed if you begin to feel your baby physically responding to the world outside the womb. In the wake of a sudden loud noise, like a car door slamming, a wailing siren, a barking dog, or a heavy book dropping to the ground, you may notice your baby kicking or jerking suddenly. When this happens, you can soothe your baby by rubbing your stomach and speaking to him in a calming, soothing voice.