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Your Brilliant Baby in Week 19: Preferring Music to Talking

Baby’s Brain in Week 19

Snuggling Baby in your arms, you—like all mothers from every culture and generation—likely find yourself singing to him. Singing to babies, even those who are only a few minutes or hours old, is as universal as music itself. (Go ahead—just try to spend a day without so much as humming around your little guy!)

You may notice that when you sing, your baby seems to stop what he’s doing, whether crying or kicking, and really listen. Is he going to be a music prodigy? Or does your child share his interest in music with all babies?

What the Research Shows

As it turns out, babies everywhere attend to singing—and, in fact, prefer it over speech. In a laboratory experiment, researchers proved this by videotaping five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half-month-old babies when their mothers communicated with them in two ways:

  • singing to them in a distinctive style, which involved a high pitch, slow tempo, and emotional expressiveness
  • speaking to them using motherese (that sing-songy talking style that proved universal in earlier studies)

Trained observers noted the differences between the infants’ body movements and visual fixations when they heard singing versus when they heard speaking. The results revealed that while the babies were highly attentive to both maternal signals, they exhibited more sustained attention—that is, they reacted more and for longer—to their moms’ singing than to their speech.

Week 19 Brain Booster

Since it’s apparent that babies love music and mothers love singing to them, don’t hold back! Go ahead and croon when you want to. An especially good time is when baby is over-stimulated: Taking her to a quiet corner and rocking back and forth while singing a lullaby pulls her attention inward, thereby coordinating her senses and making her feel less irritated. At times like this, singing is far more effective than talking!

And a couple tips before belting out Top 40 hits: Research shows us that infants don’t pay the same amount of attention when you sing using your regular adult singing voice; they like it best when you use a high pitch and slow tempo, and when you’re especially emotionally expressive—and they really like to see your face and lips as you sing.

Your Week 19 Toolbox

Related skills and topics this week include …

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