Prenatal music - does it work?

A lot of people have a misconception about "prenatal education." To me, I think the word "education" is misinterpreted when it comes to the topic of fetal learning.

Having read some articles on prenatal music, I know it is just lame to say that babies will grow up to be more musical or smart if they have been exposed to music intentionally when they are still in mothers' wombs. In fact, little is known about the effects of prenatal auditory experiences on infants' postnatal behaviors.

Many aspects from this field (prenatal music) remain unexplore. The following few conclusions are drawn from the research done by a few experts:

- 2-day-old infants recognize and prefer their mothers' voices over that of another woman

- infants recall stories and rhymes heard prenatally

- Infants exhibit changes in heart rate and movement when listening to music that was heard in the womb.

- Infants exposed to music during pregnancy are more likely to develop certain behaviours (might not related to music) at an earlier stage of development than non-exposed infants.

Playing music during pregnancy is not a magic trick; but as a musician, I can't find any reason NOT to play music during pregnancy. If music can soothe the mommy, it naturally send happy hormones to the fetus. So, both intentional and unintentional music listening benefit both mommy and baby.

If you're interested in doing some planned prenatal music listening, here are some of my tips (NOT based on research, I learnt it through talking to moms and families)

- start early (yes, i know the auditory system is not completely developed till the 3rd trimester, but again, I can't give you any reason NOT to start singing to your baby early so that you and your hubby grow familiar with a musical routine)

- Hum all the time (it relaxes the larynx and any tension we've gathered around our necks, and think about it, we only hum when we're relaxed and happy anyways)

- Sing a theme song to your baby, don't be afraid of repetition. (let the bonding start, pick an easy nursery rhyme that you're most comfortable with, e.g. twinkle twinkle little star or row row row your boat. It could become THE song that calms your baby down in future.)

- Classical music is good, but it shouldn't be your only choice. (You can expose them to different genre of music from around the world; you'd be amazed by fetus' reaction to different kinds of rhythms and songs. You may ask, like what kinds of music? I'd say, anything YOU enjoy would be good for your baby!)

- A more technical reminder: if the music routine involves playing a CD, make sure you turn it up a wee bit louder than usually (of course not so loud that can deafen YOU) so that the fetus can hear it better when he/she's in the womb.

- Get your hubby invovled. Ask him to hum, sing, read with you or solo! (I've only come across like 1 or 2 research articles about paternal music influence on fetus/infants. But again, it's the bonding that's most important)

I've done a few presentations on prenatal music. After reading those quantitative reports and journals, I always come to a conclusion that music should start before birth because we all know how music naturally bonds people at good times and bad; during prenatal and post-natal period, when bonding is SO important to the baby, music becomes the obvious starting point.

There is an article that I'd recommend if you're interested in this topic:
Mozart or Bach? Music, Pregnancy, and Fetal Development