Music for the Unborn Child
Sr. Lorna Zemke
Silver Lake College
Music for the unborn child – really?! This is often the first reaction from a person who hears about using and making music for the unborn child during pregnancy. However, prenatal research conducted by physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists, along with anecdotal experiences of mothers confirm that the child in the womb is a living, sentient, and active human being.
The nine months between conception and birth are extremely important to the emotional, social, and physical development of a child. Prior to defining the role music plays in aiding this development, it might be well to mention that the fetal ear begins to develop around the third-week gestational age and the inner ear is already fully developed at 5 months.
Therefore, even before the baby is born, somewhere in the 4th or 5th month of pregnancy, the child can hear sounds from the outside world. Music, then, can stimulate the child’s hearing and aid in the overall development of the prenate physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. Moreover, music allows the family, mother, father, and siblings, to make the baby feel secure, wanted and loved even before birth. Because music is a language in its own right, it communicates and establishes a bond between parents and child long before birth. Such bonding builds the baby’s self-esteem and can make him/her feel welcomed into the family.
What are some avenues for this type of music making? Since everyone has a voice, it is a natural instrument and singing is a natural activity, especially the singing of folksongs which, according to Zoltan Kodály, is the best means of teaching the “musical mother tongue” of a nation to its people. Also, singing to the unborn child offers the prenate a special, intimate way to relax and parents experience the wonder of life they have created.
Using movement /dancing during pregnancy provides a healthy activity for parents and child. Some types of movement can be simply stepping to the large beats (macrobeats) or the small beats (microbeats) of a song or dance tune.
Listening to music can be enriching for the prenate, not only because of its reflective and expressive musical qualities, but also because it may promote emotive experiences for the child. Singing, moving, and listening are simple but enriching musical activities which parents can enjoy with their unborn child.
Finally, consider burning a CD or making a tape of your favorite songs or hymns, sung by you the parents, siblings, and/or significant persons in the child’s life, to play during labor and delivery. You may want to include some appealing classical music such as Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” or gentle instrumental tracks from Broadway musicals. This may assist in a calmer, more peaceful birth since it is the culmination of the previous musical experiences provided for the baby when in the womb. Fred Schwarz, MD, a practicing anesthesiologist in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests that the use of music is becoming a more accepted and commonplace method of dealing with the stress and pain of labor.
These are just a few activities that you can use to foster and enrich the life of the baby in the womb, and that will establish a loving communication and a strong bond between the baby and family before the child is born.
About the Author: Sr. Lorna Zemke, DMA, is the author of LOVENOTES™: Music for the Unborn Child, a program taught at Silver Lake College, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Her Music for Tots™ classes are offered four days a week, in four cities, and employ nine part-time teachers.