Language Cues Learned in Womb
11.10.09 Experts say mom's native tongue shapes a newborn's crying melody
A new study suggests that the cries of newborn infants are quite similar to the speech patterns of their parents, heard in the womb and very early after they are born, the BBC reports. This study suggests that infants are born with an innate sense to mimic the sounds of their parents.
Researchers analyzed more than 1,000 recorded cries from 30 French newborns and 30 German newborns, finding a distinct difference in their patterns. The experts detected the French babies crying with a rising melody (similar to the language's higher accents), while German babies cried with a falling accent (similar to how German speakers end phrases with a lower intonation).
These findings, published in the journal Current Biology, add to previous discoveries that children in utero can memorize sounds from the outside world in the last trimester, especially music and voices. This new research goes further: Fetuses are influenced by the first sounds that penetrate the womb, plus pick up the nuances of their mothers' accents.
The study concluded that a newborn is highly motivated to imitate his or her mom's behavior in order to attract her and foster bonding.
It isn't easy to listen to a baby cry. But understanding that crying is something every healthy newborn does makes it more bearable. And learning what his or her cries mean can help you more than anything. Check out our tips on what your newborn is trying to tell you with his or her tears. Plus, some calming techniques you can try when the water works are in full force.
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor