The last months of pregnancy are mostly spent building cribs, buying stacks of diapers, and trying to figure out the safety locks on your kitchen cabinetry. You want what’s best for your child, even before they are born. And while all of the usual preparation is very important, there is one very simple exercise that can ultimately be one of the most beneficial things you do for your child: playing music.
The benefits of playing music for prenatals are extraordinary and have long-lasting positive effects on a child. One of the most relevant research studies on prenatal music exposure comes from a group of researchers in Finland (Partanen et al., 2013). In this study, mothers were given a CD to play five times per week during their last trimester of pregnancy. The CD contained very simple melodies, including a small snippet of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. After birth, the researchers were able to measure how much the newborn’s brains were reacting when the same music from the CD was played. When compared to newborns that had no prenatal music exposure, these infants had very high amounts of brain activity, both right at birth and four months later. In other words, the newborns’ brains recognized the music that was was played for them prenatally (Partanen et al., 2013).
What this research shows is how important prenatal music exposure is to a developing brain. By being exposed to music during the last trimester, the newborns were given a jump start at being able to process sounds. This is important for later development milestones, like responding to different voices and forming words of their own. Ultimately, there are many factors that determine a child’s development, but this research conveys that playing music for your child before birth should be at the top of your pre-baby preparation checklist.
Partanen E, Kujala T, Tervaniemi M, Huotilainen M (2013) Prenatal Music Exposure Induces Long-Term Neural Effects. PLoS ONE 8(10): e78946. doi:10.1371/journal.pone. 0078946