By the time a baby finally enters our world, they have been preparing for quite some time and are already learning from everything that happens around them.
If you’ve ever held a newborn in your arms, you know the feeling is unmatched by any other experience on earth. Tiny, perfect fingers might curl around your index finger as they convey a sense of peace and promise. In their first days, you can hardly help but notice their dreaming, and can’t help but wonder what such a new being could have to dream about, when you notice the change of expression and fluttering of eyes that accompany their sleep.
“With every newborn, we are given a fantastic gift—the opportunity to introduce new eyes, new ideas, and fresh insight to our world. We become the stewards of that gift, and our job is to treasure and ensure that every one of these tiny beings, born learning, are given every opportunity to bring their unique and perfect gifts to our experience."
In fact, by the time a baby finally enters our world, they have been preparing for quite some time and are already learning and actively participating in most everything that happens around them. Studies have shown that by the eighth month of a mother’s pregnancy, the baby’s heartbeat slows as a calmed response to the sound of her voice. The baby will also react to loud noises, like a nearby construction site or surround sound from a movie theater by shifting or kicking suddenly. It is during the last few months of a mother’s pregnancy that the baby begins to listen to the sounds of their native language—likely picking up on the rhythm and melody, vowel sounds of words so that by the time they are born, their cry resembles the sounds of their specific native language and they are able to differentiate sounds that are familiar, especially the sounds of their own mother’s voice.
Studies also indicate that babies develop a sense of taste as early as early as the eighth week of pregnancy and that when mothers eat a varied diet during pregnancy they often have children that are more willing to accept new foods. Sense of smell also plays a role, so that unborn babies are exposed to certain familiar smells like the spices in foods, even before they are born. Sense of smell has demonstrated to be factors in helping baby identify their mother right after birth.
Back to the subject of dreaming, even before baby is born they demonstrate similar sleep patterns to that of REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, which is the state of dreaming. Although it is impossible to know if they are really dreaming before birth or what they are dreaming about, they are setting the patterns into motion that will later form their dreams.
By the time Baby is here, sounds, language, and routines of the day are already somewhat familiar. The newborn is ready to see our world and engage in our experience. They are ready to absorb every opportunity we can share with them. Sadly, our newest community members also learn and absorb the trauma and pain that may present in environments in which they are delivered. Our actions have consequence for better or worse, and our newest community members are completely connected to the world we introduce.
With every newborn, we are given a fantastic gift—the opportunity to introduce new eyes, new ideas, and fresh insight to our world. Every baby brings the gift of hope. We become the stewards of that gift, and our job is to treasure and ensure that every one of these tiny beings, born learning, are given every opportunity to bring their unique and perfect gifts to our experience. United Way works to connect families to the resources available in our community in order to help ensure their children get a strong start and will continue to thrive.
To learn more about United Way’s early learning initiatives, click here.