When To Start Teaching Your Baby (1)
When is it that I should start teaching my baby? That is a question that may come to mind for many first time parents; other parents may never consider the question at all, and just leave things to evolve naturally.
In a way, that is an unnecessary question as, whether you like it or not and whether you mean to or not, you begin teaching your baby while it is still in the womb, and then continue through its early years, teenage years, and even into adulthood. So, perhaps it is better to rephrase that question slightly to "when should I consciously start teaching my baby?"
Even with the rephrased question, the answer is the same: while the baby is in the womb. How can that be?
While the baby is in the womb it starts to learn about its environment after about six months of pregnancy, when it is capable of hearing external sounds. Of course, it is aware of its internal environment earlier than that, but there is little you can do to enhance that. But when it comes to the external environment, you are in a position to have some influence even from that early stage of development.
What Can You Teach Your Baby In The Womb?
With the baby in the womb there is clearly a very limited scope for teaching as such. However, you can provide additional stimulation that will form an important part of their learning at that stage. You can provide many hints as to what the outside environment is like, in a way that sets a good foundation for their feeling of love and security.
The main external awareness of a baby in the womb is sound. If you can make the external sounds comforting and welcoming then that will help the baby more than you may think. Music is a proven stimulation to babies, especially classical music; a daily dose of Mozart will stimulate the baby's brain and senses. With any luck, they will become a musical talent, but that is not an issue at this stage of their development.
You do not, of course, have to restrict her to classical music. Whatever music you like, just turn the volume up a bit more than usual to ensure she hears it. The sound will be muffled, but by the time baby is born, she will be used to your musical tastes. Your aim should be to make the outside environment familiar to the baby. Most of that will happen naturally, and she will become used to the daily sounds, such as vacuum cleaner, liquidizer, lawnmower and other domestic noises that are penetrating.
Our baby daughter was born in the Philippines, where our usual form of transport is a tricycle. I do not think it a coincidence that, once she was born, she was contented with the noise of a tricycle; and they are noisy here, I assure you, especially outside the womb! However noisy the tricycle, she would always be asleep within a minute or two, and even now at 20 months is particularly relaxed on a deafening tricycle.
If you want to insist on having a most important sound in the womb, then it must be the voices of the parents. Getting to know the voice of mum and dad will come naturally, but dad especially can get up close and talk to the baby in the womb. It will not talk back of course, but you can rest assured, if she is awake, she will be intrigued by your up close and personal voice. It is something I did every evening with Saffron. That also had the effect of keeping her awake as long as possible during the evening, so she was less restless at night. That can be very helpful for mum to get a good night's sleep.
Another external stimulation which I never learnt about for my now grown up children, and that is light. This can be even more useful for keeping baby awake in the evening. If you take a powerful flashlight, switch it on, and hold it close to mum's tummy, the baby in the womb will respond to it. I must say I thought it a silly idea, until the then unborn Saffron started moving every time the light was switched on. So, the flashlight became another tool in the "keep baby awake in the evening" campaign to stop mum being kicked so much during the night.
Maybe Saffron did not appreciate my "keep her awake" tactics. She was probably wondering "who is this guy keeping me awake all the time; doesn't he realise I want to get some sleep?"
However, she does seem to have done well on it. She has slept like a log all night, every night apart from one, since she was just a few months' old. The odd night? Apparently, a bad dream at 11 pm. A quick cuddle and words of reassurance, and she was back to sleep again.
Whether that has any connection to her in-the-womb experiences, I cannot say for sure. But I will definitely be using the same tactics again next time, if we are blessed with a baby sister or brother for her.