If you have ever experienced pregnancy, whether your own or have had the pleasure of being with someone on their journey, you know how incredible it is. As your belly grows, you can’t help but wonder what that baby will be like. Not just looks, but what kind of personality will they have? Will they be funny like dad or serious like mom? Maybe they will love peanut butter like mom since she ate a PB & J daily. Or cantaloupe? Yuck! She hated that. It is all a mystery and so exciting. Have you ever wondered what your baby is learning while developing in the womb? Guess what? It’s a lot! Those nine-plus months of development are incredible, and your baby is born with an unbelievable amount of knowledge.
Check out these ten things your baby is learning while they are chillin’ in your belly.
10 Things You Didn’t Know Babies Learn in the Womb
Dr. Barbara Warner, MD, Washington University Director, Division of Newborn Medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, explains that mom and baby are connected in more ways than one.8 “Mother nature is pretty smart. There are built-in processes that impact the fetus in a very positive way, like the proximity and repeated nature of maternal voice exposure, that help build these connections and memories in a positive way. Mothers can help nurture these through activities like singing, reading, and talking with their babies, as well as having their partners and family members do the same.”
So, keep talking to your belly. Let dad and big sis read stories and sing songs too. Once the baby is born, they will find comfort in those familiar voices.
2. Distinguishing Light
As your baby is developing, they are in a pretty dark spot. Because of this, their eyes remain closed until the end of the second trimester, when they begin to blink. According to Mayo Clinic, your baby can start to distinguish light by week 16.1 You can test this by shining a light on your growing bump, and you may feel your baby wiggle about. To help ensure proper eye development, it is important to take prenatal vitamins and eat a diet rich in vitamin A.
3. Mom’s Sleep Cycle
Dr. Warner states, “The fetus learns and retains their mother’s sleep-wake cycle. Maternal sleep-wake cycles during pregnancy have been shown to impact a child’s sleep-wake cycle even after birth.” This can come in handy after the baby is born and you are trying to get into a good feeding and sleeping routine. Try to stick to the same patterns your baby was used to in utero, and you may get some good rest.
4. Favorite Foods
One of the things that babies learn in the womb, believe it or not, is your favorite foods. If you were a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches and root beer when you were pregnant, your baby might love those foods too as they grow older. In a report by the National Library of Medicine, it is explained that flavors make their way into your amniotic fluid, and the baby gets a taste early on, which is why you may find that you and your baby have the same favorites.2
The first sense that a baby begins to develop is the sense of touch. This starts as early as eight weeks. According to UT Southwestern University, the sense of touch typically begins in a baby’s face, predominantly on the nose and lips. By week twelve, the baby can feel on the palms of the hands and the souls of the feet, and by 17 weeks, the abdomen. It is believed that a baby cannot feel pain until after 30 weeks.3
6. Fetal Memory
Dr. Warner explains that fetal memory is extremely important. “One of the most critical functions of fetal connectivity, or fetal memory, is parental recognition, which facilitates parental bonding and attachment. This ‘prenatal priming’ for delivery to a world outside the womb includes developing this connection to mother and the world in which she lives. Much of the initial work around fetal memory focused on learning the parental voice. These auditory exposures have been shown to have lasting effects postnatally, impacting central nervous system and autonomic responses, like heart rate.”
Did you know that babies learn to dream during pregnancy? According to a report in Science Daily, REM sleep begins while the baby is still in the womb. “After about seven months of growing in the womb, a human fetus spends most of its time asleep. Its brain cycles back and forth between the frenzied activity of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the quiet resting state of non-REM sleep. But whether the brains of younger, immature fetuses cycle with sleep or are simply inactive has remained a mystery until now.”4
A report published by the University of Washington explained that babies begin learning language in the womb and can actually differentiate sounds from their native and foreign languages. It is explained that (no surprise) the strongest influence on a baby’s language development is their mother. So it makes sense that they would most clearly understand her, but it’s no less fascinating that they can distinguish her voice from others.5
9. Mom’s Psychological State
A new study published in Science Daily reports that babies are not only learning their mom’s voice, favorite foods, and music in the womb, but they may also be receiving cues about her mental state through chemical signals from the placenta.6 It is believed that a baby is able to understand whether or not its mother is experiencing depression during pregnancy. “They found something interesting: what mattered to the babies was if the environment was consistent before and after birth. That is, the babies who did best were those who either had mothers who were healthy both before and after birth and those whose mothers were depressed before birth and stayed depressed afterward. What slowed the babies’ development was changing conditions — a mother who went from depressed before birth to healthy after or healthy before birth to depressed after,” the study said.
Yes, your baby can cry before birth, but it is nothing to be sad about. Heathline explains that when a baby cries in the womb, it is practicing how to cry, and they aren’t feeling pain.7 “To understand whether babies really ‘cry’ in the womb, it’s important to take into account what goes into the behavior of crying, not just the characteristic sound. Babies can’t be heard crying until they’re in contact with air rather than fluid, so scientists rely on studying the complex physical behaviors and responses that cause a cry,” according to Healthline. It is just a response that lasts 15 to 20 seconds, not 30-minute sessions crying it out.
Pregnancy is a magical time when we prepare to meet the newest love of our life. We expect them to be beautiful, soft, and perfect, but we may not realize just how smart and knowledgeable they actually are and what babies are capable of learning in the womb. In order to make sure that our babies are getting the most out of their time in the womb, we must maintain healthy diet and exercise habits during pregnancy. Keep talking to your belly and rubbing it regularly. When your baby is born, it will know your voice and be comforted by your touch.