Your In Utero Baby Can Totally Hear Everything You’re Saying

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shutterstock_60507076Unborn babies may be behind layers and layers of tissue, but new research suggests that those little babes can hear a lot more than we think they do. And by we, I mean those of us who aren’t reading to our in utero baby every evening.

The New York Times reports that babies apparently can learn “bits of their native language” before they enter this world. Meaning that “prenatal learning,” and thereby prenatal education, is about to get a whole lot more buzzy.

Unborn babies reportedly develop the ability to hear at about 30 weeks — and that’s apparently when the fun starts. For the last two months of pregnancy, baby can make out mommy’s voice among all the chatter.

Researchers stumbled across this fact when testing 80 newborns (40 American and 40 Swedish) to determine who could distinguish their native vowel sounds. And wouldn’t you know, these little babies knew the difference:

The scientists gave the babies, ranging in age from 7 hours to 75 hours, pacifiers that counted the number of sucks they made. As the babies sucked, they listened to Swedish and English vowel sounds; the more they sucked, the more the sounds were played. The researchers inferred the babies’ interest in the sound by the amount of sucking.

American babies consistently sucked more often when hearing Swedish vowel sounds, suggesting that the infants had not heard them before, and Swedish babies sucked more when hearing English vowels.

Researchers were reportedly confident that these newborns were not likely to learn such vowel sounds so quickly after being born, ultimately citing prenatal learning as the cause. Which means maybe pepper your Kimye gossiping with some SAT words?

(photo: Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock)


  1. lea

    January 9, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I love this!

    Apparently, also, the way mothers talk to their babies is a kind of subconscious singing (in the inflections of the voice and the timing).

    And that if mothers wait after saying something to baby, say like “who’s a happy baby then?”, with an upward inflection at the end- the babies respond with whatever sounds babies make (cooing and whatever), in the same timing as the mother is using. They use their learned (and also continue to learn) their vowel sounds this way.

    See, all you naysayers (Mommyish writers included), *shock, horror*, “studies” and research actually find some really cool stuff you know!!! 😉

    • lea

      January 9, 2013 at 3:51 am

      An interesting podcast about this is called “The Language of Lullabies” on the BBC World Service. If you are interested in that kind of thing 🙂

      Available here: (and iTunes)

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