Moms-to-be have stretched headphones across their bellies for years in hopes of the music influencing their baby's development. Now, researchers say babies can actually recognize those same tunes even after they're born.
A recent study by Finnish researchers published by PLOS ONE found that babies are able to learn a song while in womb – and recognize it after birth. The study looked at 24 pregnant women and their children; half were exposed to the song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" about 170 times, while the other half was not exposed. Once born, the babies who were exposed to the song while in utero were more responsive on an EEG test to the song's melody.
The study's lead researcher, Eino Partanen, told the New York Times, "A baby can be relaxed and soothed by melodies it hears before birth, but there is no evidence that it will get your baby into Harvard."
While music exposure can't guarantee a baby genius, the benefits are clear – and southeast Michigan experts are backing up these findings, too.
"Playing music to your baby in the womb is an outstanding idea. When I teach classes, it's mostly to first-time moms. I always stress how important it is to play music," says Jenna Barba, director of Mini Musicians/Music Together in Rochester. "Babies recognize prosody, which is the rhythm and intonation of a mother's voice. That's why babies can learn quickly when a song ends."
Any type of music is good to play, but some genres may be more beneficial for baby than others. Barba says to go for a variety of types and complexities.
"First and foremost, I would recommend classical (music), because it is full of complex sounds that babies enjoy," says Barba. "But I would say any music that moves the mother-to-be works just great."