Books, of course!
If you know an expectant father—maybe your own partner—he’s likely to be actively involved in the pregnancy and already forming a bond with his baby in the womb. And if you’ve found your way to The Reading Womb, you must be intrigued by the wealth of evidence in the media today demonstrating the benefits of reading to babies in utero.
Yet another new report came out in February, from the BBC News, that attests to babies’ development of speech skills while still in the womb. A team of French scientists found that babies at 28 weeks’ gestation could distinguish specific syllables, as well as the difference between male and female voices.
So why not celebrate Father’s Day early by giving the expectant dad the opportunity to explore this idea for himself?
You could start with some nonfiction on the subject, like Keys to Becoming a Father, by Dr. William Sears. “Fathering begins before birth,” says Dr. Sears, and he discusses the ways a man can start forming a real and active bond with the baby long before he’s born—including talking and reading to him.
“Studies have shown,” says Dr. Sears, “that babies whose fathers talked to them before birth attended more to their father’s voices soon after birth, perhaps indicating that the sound of the father’s voice had been imprinted on the mind of the preborn baby.”
Please check out our links in the sidebar to learn about the research that shows that babies in utero can recognize and remember stories read aloud to them, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy. After birth, newborns respond to these same stories, especially when they’re read in the familiar voices they heard from the womb.
“But can he really hear me in there?”
Yes, he can! Especially if Daddy snuggles up close and speaks clearly to the belly. And according to Dr. Sears, “Some researchers suspect that the preborn baby actually may hear the father’s voice better than the mother’s, because the amniotic fluid transmits the resonant low-pitched male voice more easily than a higher feminine voice.”
Does Daddy feel funny reading to the bump? Help him get lost in the fun of language. There are so many wonderful books that contain the rhythms and rhymes that the experts say are recognized and preferred by babies before and after birth. Find the books you think he’ll really enjoy reading—you can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss! And we’ve got lots more recommendations in our last post and this older post, too.
This invitation to bond with his baby can be a precious gift for the father-to-be. It’s the beginning of a special reading time he can share with his child for years to come, and he’ll also be helping him develop early language and even social skills.
But the magic of in utero bonding goes even deeper than that. Daddy’s voice, like Mommy’s, will become familiar to the growing baby during the third trimester of pregnancy, or even earlier. After he’s born, studies show that he’ll recognize and be comforted by their voices. He’ll also recognize the familiar patterns and rhyming vowels of stories he’s heard repeatedly from the womb. The new father will be able to experience this amazing connection right away, and at the same time watch its soothing effect on his precious new baby.