Talk to the bump: a new study finds that babies begin learning their native language while still in utero. ©Jjustas/Shutterstock.com
A new study -- said to be the first of its kind -- reveals that babies begin learning the distinctive sounds of their native language while in utero.
Researchers from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State have found that infants show interest in the vowels of their native language only hours after being born.
The study relied on data from 40 infants in the US and another 40 in Sweden, all ranging from seven to 75 hours old. Newborns were tested on two sets of vowel sounds -- 17 native language sounds and 17 foreign sounds. Researchers measured the babies' interest by how long they sucked a pacifier connected to a computer. When babies sucked on the pacifier, they heard a vowel sound until they paused. Sucking again produced a new sound.
In both countries, babies listening to foreign sounds sucked pacifiers more compared to those listening to their native tongue.
"These little ones had been listening to their mother's voice in the womb, and particularly her vowels for ten weeks," explains coauthor Patricia Kuhl. "The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain."
"The fact that the infants can learn the vowels in utero means they are putting some pretty sophisticated brain centers to work, even before birth," she adds. "We can't waste early curiosity."
The findings, announced Wednesday, are set to be published in a future edition of the journal Acta Paediatrica.
Babycentre.uk advises moms-to-be to talk and sing to their baby bump, which will help bonding, and after birth, your newborn will pay more attention to your voice than others.
Access an abstract of the study.