You Can Teach Baby Nursery Rhymes Before Birth (Cool, Huh?)

Photo: Getty/The Bump
Photo: Getty/The Bump

Twinkle, twinkle little baby? A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, shows that babies can learn nursery rhymes before they’re even born — sort of.

Researchers studied 32 women who were 28 weeks pregnant, and told each of them to sing the same nursery rhyme twice daily to their bellies until their 34th week. Yeah, we understand that this sounds like a weird, made up science project, but we swear it’s real. And the results were way cool.

The authors of the study wanted to figure out if a fetus could actually learn a nursery rhyme before it was even born, following recent studies that suggest babies can start learning while still in utero. “We’re basically asking the fetus, if your mother says this repeatedly, will you remember it?” said Charlene Krueger, who led the study.

And they did! — sort of (again).

Because it’s impossible to record fetal brain activity, scientists had to find another way to figure out whether the babies understood the nursery rhymes. Instead of tracking brain activity, they chose to record heart rate, as recent studies have shown late term fetus’s heart rates slow down when they hear something familiar. While mom listened to music through headphones, a stranger’s voice recited the nursery rhymes. When the stranger read the familiar nursery rhyme, the fetus’s heart rates slowed down. When she read an new rhyme, they stayed the same.

So, maybe the fetuses didn’t exactly learn the nursery rhyme, but there’s still something to benefit from in this study. “As a take away message I would want mothers to understand is that their speech is very important to the developing fetus,” noted Kruger. “When a mother speaks, not only does the fetus hear, but also the whole spine vibrates.”

These findings come just after another study illustrated how important it is to talk to baby, proving even more that chit chatting with your belly isn’t crazy — it’s helping your growing baby get ready for life outside the womb.

Do you talk to your belly? 

Plus, more from The Bump: 

Should I Talk to Baby In Utero? 

10 Signs Your Baby Likes You 

New-Mom Confessions