Prenatal Story-time: A Multi-sensory experience!

deepak-bookWe talked recently about Deepak Chopra’s beautiful book, Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Another thing we love about this book is that Deepak devotes so much attention to bonding with your baby, both before and after birth. For example . . .

“Use all five senses to connect with your baby and create a nurturing environment for both of you.”

In our August post, we mentioned the very real sensory connection mothers have with their babies in the womb that researchers have been discovering over the years. For instance, this fascinating BBC article delved into research that “supports the idea that babies learn taste preferences before they are born” and why this link between mother and baby (human and animal) likely developed to enhance newborn survival. This Science Daily article cites earlier studies that showed that babies’ sense of smell also develops in the womb.

21492380_sWhat about the sense of touch? Well, a recent study, “Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch,” reinforced findings of earlier research that found that “Newborns preferentially respond to maternal voice hours after birth, suggesting that the fetus is able to detect stimuli in utero and form memories of them.” Yes! We never get tired of hearing our message corroborated by experts!

This study is especially interesting in that it also measured (through ultrasound) fetal response when pregnant mothers touched their
baby bump. The researchers conclude, “Overall results suggest that maternal touch of the abdomen was a powerful stimulus, producing a range of fetal behavioural responses.” We love how they put their findings into a family context:

Mothers, fathers and other family members talk and even sing to the fetus throughout pregnancy with communicative intent. Many report changes in the fetal behaviour as a response to such communication. . . . Similarly to talking to the fetus, most mothers and even fathers attempt to communicate with and regulate the behaviour of the fetus via stroking of the mother’s abdomen as a response to the kicking or positional movements of the fetus. Even the expecting mothers’ mood is affected by massaging the abdomen. . . .

And this brings us back to Deepak’s important advice. We know now that babies can hear, taste, smell, and feel from inside the womb, and scientists also find that they’re sensitive to light as early as the fourth month. But you also create a “nurturing environment” for yourself and your baby in utero simply by connecting to your own five senses.

Revel in the flavors of your breakfast, your fruit, your tea. Feast your eyes on the kaleidoscopic colors at the farmer’s market. Moon around the florist’s shop taking deep, ecstatic breaths. Luxuriate in the bliss of a warm ray of sun slanting through the window. And lie back in the comfiest chair in the house and let your sweetie give you and baby-to-be some loving touch. All this (plus the resulting release of endorphins, or feel-good hormones) will
communicate to your child, “All is well and calm and safe. Rest, relax, and grow, and soon you’ll join us in this beautiful world.”

If you foster calm and peace in your baby’s environment even before he’s born, the effects can last through the birth, the newborn weeks, the first year, and on into childhood. A “magical beginning” indeed!

Now please forgive a shameless plug for our book, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be, which takes you through a journey of the five senses with your baby in the womb. Read aloud these words that let you indulge your happy anticipation, and enjoy the colorful nature-inspired illustrations, and you’ll truly be connecting with your senses and your unborn child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Big Sisters and Brothers-to-be

Helping Mommy read aloud to baby brother- or sister-to-be

If you’re a new family hoping to add another member someday—or soon!—then you might sometimes worry about how this will affect your firstborn. How will she feel when she’s no longer the center of your universe?

Popular wisdom holds that introducing a new sibling is inevitably difficult and potentially even traumatic for the firstborn child. But the truth is that expanding your family can be a joyful experience right from the beginning if you help your little one create a strong relationship with her baby brother or sister—even before the baby is born.

Our mission at the Reading Womb is to educate parents about the importance of bonding with babies by starting a regular storytime even before birth. And prenatal bonding, especially through reading aloud, is also the very best way to build strong sibling relationships!

By the time your second child comes along, you’ve probably established a regular read-aloud routine. We hope you even read to your first child in utero, and she’s a book lover already! Whether storytime is part of your family’s schedule or not, reading to your firstborn and expected child at the same time is way to continue or ingrain a practice that is integral to successful families.

Think about it: you’re sharing with two little ones at once all the joys of language, literacy, and bonding through books, and at the same getting some relaxation time for yourself. Now, that’s multitasking at its best!

Research has shown that babies can hear and remember voices from inside the womb during the last trimester—so let your first child know that the baby in Mummy’s belly can really hear her talking. The sibling-bonding magic happens when your child actively joins in the read-aloud with you. She can repeat some of the lines from the story after you read them, or even read some words herself if she’s old enough. Meanwhile, you can help her describe the pictures to the baby and add her own details to the story.

Hey, Little Baby, from Cottage Door Press

We can’t resist sharing a glimpse of the “second sibling” in the Belly Books collection! Hey, Little Baby was created specially for little ones to welcome a new baby brother or sister into their world. By telling the baby-to-be about all the fun they’ll have together, your firstborn will develop a sense of excitement about the upcoming birth—and a feeling of companionship that will ease the adjustment.

There are so many benefits to both grownups and children from family storytime, even just 15 minutes a day. Setting aside this sacred time to share the joys of language and story is a beautiful way to just be together as a family. And if you establish daily reading time with your first child, then when the new baby finally arrives, this will continue as an expected and comforting routine as you all settle into life as an expanded family.

Goodbye, sibling rivalry—hello, sibling revelry!

Official AAP recommendation: Start reading early!

AAPThe nation’s largest pediatricians’ group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has publicly urged parents to read aloud to their children daily and to begin as soon as possible. This practice, they say, stimulates early brain development and helps build important language, literacy and social skills. Dr. Pamela High, a renowned pediatrician and spokesperson for the Academy, says:

What we’re addressing is that many parents in the United States don’t seem to have the knowledge that there’s a wonderful opportunity available to them, starting very early, an opportunity for them to begin building their child’s language development and to forge their own relationship with their child through reading to them on a regular basis.

We couldn’reading pregnantt agree more, Dr. High! And we’re grateful for the tireless work you’ve done over many years to spread the word about the importance of sharing language with children right from the very start.

With all the recent research showing that a baby in the last trimester learns language, we are certain that an announcement from the AAP about reading even before birth is not far behind.

“It feels kind of awkward”

You may be an expectant parent who has been hearing about all the incredible benefits of reading to children as soon as possible, and you want to get started, but how? You already take good care of your baby by taking prenatal vitamins, cutting back on caffeine, and getting enough rest, but reading out loud? Now that’s a horse of a different color! We realize that most adults ReadtoBabyhave not read aloud since they were children, if ever, and that beginning this practice can be a little daunting. You might even be thinking to yourself, “What if I do it wrong?”

We at the Reading Womb are here to assure you that there is absolutely no wrong way to read to your baby. Your little one has already fallen deeply in love with you and with your unique voice — months before he is born. Research shows that every time you speak, your baby tunes in and listens closely.

“So what should I read to my baby in the womb?”

To tell the truth, your baby will get all gaga hearing you read the ingredients from the side of a cereal box! But if your aim is to promote literacy and language development, then we can give you the tools to begin. The very first thing that you need to begin your reading routine is . . . a book! Research shows that babies in the womb, as well as newborns, latch onto language that is rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive.

Beloved children’s author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox beautifully explains:

When children are born, they’ve been used to the mother’s heartbeat in the womb. When they’re born, they’re rocked and cradled. There is a rhythm to life itself. There’s rhythm in the nursery rhymes and songs that are sung to children.

ChickenSo choose a book that has a simple rhythm that’s easy for you to read and will be soothing music to your baby’s ears. In many of the research studies that we’ve reported here, babies in the womb were regularly read nursery rhymes. The short, simple, repetitive lines heard before birth were learned and remembered later by the newborns. As an extra bonus, these babies were soothed and calmed by the familiar language they heard before birth!

Choosing a book with visual appeal to a newborn is also important. Bright and colorful board books will capture a baby’s attention, and the chunky design and easy-to-grasp pages are baby friendly. When he’s still inside the womb, your voice and the fun and lively text will be the main attraction, but once he’s born your baby will have the incredible experience of blending the familiar text with beautiful and supporting illustrations. Voila! You have a tiny pre-reader on your hands!

“What’s the best way to read aloud?”Jim Trelease

Jim Trelease, creator of the long bestselling Read Aloud Handbook, writes about all the research showing conclusively that babies in the last trimester do listen to, learn from, and remember language. In Chapter 2 he goes on to encourage expectant parents to form the habit of reading to baby before birth, saying that it will be your baby’s “first class in learning.” The following is an excerpt from his “Do’s and Don’ts for Read Alouds,” with some additional suggestions from us.

Use plenty of expression when reading.
You can use your voice to reflect the meaning of the text. Use a soft voice for gentle characters and moving moments. Use a loud voice to show strong emotion or to emphasize adventure or excitement. Monotone reading will put you and your baby to sleep, so try to keep your voice lively and rich with feeling. Dr. Pam High from the AAP says, “I think [babies] understand the emotion in the words that are being read to them very, very early.”

Adjust your pace to fit the story.
Read slowly to bring attention to beautiful language and imagery. Read more quickly to show movement and action.

Preview the book by reading it to yourself ahead of time.
This way, you’ll be more comfortable when you start to read it aloud. Reading it to yourself a few times will help you plan how the story might sound when it is spoken.

May we also suggest that you choose a book that you enjoy reading as well? If you read a how-to-use-belly-booksparticular book to your baby in utero, we can assure you that that book is going to become your child’s very favorite. Your child is going to say “Please Mommy, just one more time,” or “Read it again, Daddy.” You can look forward to reading this book over and over and over again, so be sure to make it one that you love, too.

Establishing a regular reading routine before birth is one of the very best things you can do for your baby, and as with anything, developing a comfort level with reading aloud takes practice. What better time to practice than when your baby is closer to you than he will ever be again? Ten to 15 minutes a day is all that’s needed to grow a lifelong reader, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us, the benefits are immeasurable.