Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reading and Singing to Your Unborn Child

I was thrilled to receive an email from a reader asking for book recommendations for the 5-month-old baby in her womb. It brought back memories of how I was also eager to do “everything right” and to do everything I could for my unborn, but already much-loved baby. I thought I would share here a longer version of my reply to Mommy Jill.

Pure Magic

I read to both of my babies while they were still peacefully floating inside me. Reading and singing to my first baby, Little T, was very intentional. I bought books for her (the beginnings of our home library) and diligently read every night before going to sleep. And since my husband would often arrive home very late during that period, I would feel sentimental and sing lullabies too.

One of our maternity photos in 2007 by Dino Lara

Little Sir, on the other hand, was able to listen to all the wonderful books that his sister and I were reading. He got to hear songs and to join our dancing too!

Some would scoff at such enthusiasm, but there is a growing body of research that says babies respond to sounds from the womb, and that it’s never too early to start communicating with them.

My reason for reading and singing to my unborn babies was that I wanted to connect and bond with them right from the start. More than just to aid their brain development as widely written about, I wanted them to know my voice and know me the moment we met.

And so it was pure magic when Little T was crying inconsolably during our first hour together and I just heard myself singing hush, little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird, my “pregnancy song." She stopped crying, looked up at me as if she recognized me, and went peacefully to sleep. I was thunderstruck, awestruck, lovestruck.

What to Read and Sing

I only remember two books that I read to Little T then. Sam McBratney’s “Guess How Much I Love You” and a collection of poems, “Who’s That Baby?: New Baby Songs” by Sharon Creech. Both books celebrate babies and the love that parents have for them. In the few times that I intentionally read to Little Sir in my tummy – please forgive me as I figured I was already reading to him together with his big sister! – I remember choosing “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle.

I suppose the guidelines for choosing what to read and sing to the unborn baby are the same ones that we use for very young children: simple, rhythmic, and repetitive.

If you plan to read to the little one in your womb, or are looking for a gift for an expectant mom, you can’t go wrong with some of the same titles that I recommend for those with newborn babes: 
  • Eric Carle’s rhythmic books such as the aforementioned “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”
  • Margaret Wise Brown’s classic “Goodnight Moon”
  • Deborah Guarino’s “Is Your Mama a Llama?”
  • Sam McBratney’s “Guess How Much I Love You”
  • Vera B. William’s Calecott Winner “More More More Said The Baby”
  • P.D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” 

Lastly, brush up on your nursery rhymes in preparation for your child’s birth and get a collection of Mother Goose Rhymes, which you and your baby will love until toddlerhood. 

Make magic!

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