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Babies Learn Before Birth

January 24, 2013, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Babies Learn Before Birth

Babies may be learning even earlier than previously thought. A new study by University of Washington researchers shows babies are listening and learning during the last ten weeks of pregnancy.  A local pediatric neurologist isn't surprised by the findings.

Chelsea Larkin is ten weeks pregnant. She's starting to get her baby room in order and reading to her baby for the first time.

"Before we even found out we were pregnant I would start buying books if I saw some I liked and we have a few in the nursery," Larkin said.

While you may not think reading to your baby makes a difference, researchers believe babies are listening and learning during the final ten weeks of pregnancy.

"This study and others like it are starting to show that pretty conclusively that babies are experiencing things even in the womb, and they're starting to be shaped by those experiences even before they're born," Sanford Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Michael Kruer said.

In fact, a new study found that immediately after birth, babies can tell the difference between their native language and foreign ones.

"Sometimes the baby can even recognize the mother's voice shortly after birth," Kruer said.

So what can you do to help your baby learn while in the womb? Kruer says reading and listening to classical music could help.  But the most important thing is to provide an overall positive environment.

"If you do start to establish an early relationship with your baby and start to make reading a part of that relationship, in the long run, that has a lot of positive effects," Kruer said.

That is why Larkin is opening the book to her baby's learning early on.

"Everything is to make sure we have the healthiest, safest, smartest baby we can," Larkin said.

If you did not read to your baby while pregnant, Dr. Kruer says it's never too late to start. It can also have a very positive impact on your child as he or she is growing up.

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