"Across cultures, foetuses can remember and recognise their biological mother's voice before they are even born and then prefer it after birth to that of other women, including care workers. Newborns will even change their behaviour to elicit their own mother's voice. Researchers have found that experiences in the womb have an impact on infant behaviour and development and that recognising the mother's voice in the womb may play a role in mother-infant attachment. It is believed that in-utero neural networks sensitive to the mother's voice and native-language speech are being formed (Kisilevsky et al, 2003, 2009)" WHO CARES? : Dr Aric Sigman. p.11-12.
Recently in our street we experienced the annual arrival of dozens newborn lambs. The chaotic bleating and baaing of mother sheep and baby lambs as they call-out to find each other, is just amazing. The lambs recognise their mother's baa, race towards it, then dart under their belly and furiously feed.
Some human mothers intentionally speak to their baby when in-utero, knowing that the baby can hear their voice. But the fact that the baby is tuned-in to their mother's voice is only the start of a close relationship that all babies need with their mum to develop clear language skills.
"And neurophysiological research finds only the biological mother's voice preferentially activates the parts of the baby's brain responsible for learning language, even when the baby listened regularly pre-birth to a nurse who was also a mother and whose voice was matched to be similar to the mother (Beauchemin et al, 2010)."
The researchers concluded, "scientifically speaking, that the mother's voice is special to babies... This research confirms that the mother is the primary initiator of language...."
In my family I have seen the power of my voice in my children's language. I am Australian and my eldest 3 children were born in the first five years after I moved to New Zealand, when my Aussie accent was still very strong. Now decades later these 3 adult children are still picked for their Australian tones in their speech.
The brain connection to do with language that exists between a baby and their mum, is actually two-way. New mums "seem to be biologically primed with a linguistic advantage for their own children." Mums with young babies "exhibit increased brain activity in areas known to govern language.", when they hear real-life or recordings of 'baby talk'. However, mothers whose children had grown out of this baby talk stage did not show the same brain activity of connection with the recorded baby sounds.
It's as though mums are given deep connections with their baby for a time period when the child needs certain things to be supplied by their mum, which will lead to their greatest development.
"Years later, a mother's voice continues to have physiological effects on her child. When children and young adolescents who are experiencing anxiety along with raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol hear their mother's voice on the telephone, there is a dramatic change: a rapid rise in oxytocin and dramatic reduction in those cortisol levels (Seltzer et al, 2010). It should not be surprising to learn that the mother-child interaction is now being elevated to a medical status. Editorial papers in critical care medical journals are now calling for recognition and use of "The Therapeutic Effects of a Mother's Voice" on seriously ill patients in hospital (Alspach, 2010, p.13)".
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ you can use this information.
If you are pregnant - chat away with your baby.
If your child is under 12 months - you are both still connected in this amazing way, so be available to give them lots of time to baby talk to you and for them to hear you chat to them.
If your children are older or you have teenagers - be aware of the privileged power you hold, especially to help them in times of anxiety and stress.