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When Does Learning Begin?

Here’s a TED talk I recommend to all pregnant women. It’s given by Annie Murphy Paul, the brilliant author of “Origins: How The Nine Months Before We’re Born Shape Us For The Rest of Our Lives.”

She tells us, “when we hold our baby for the first time, they have already been shaped by us and the particular world we live in.” What do they learn?

“They learn the sound of their mother’s voices… ” But not just that, they learn the melody and cadence of their mother’s language- they even learn to cry in the accent of their mother. French babies have a uniquely French-sounding cry. Moms who watch soap operas daily will have babies who may recognize the theme song. These are just a few examples of how the baby is already learning about the world and culture it will be born into.

They also learn taste and smells. By seven months a fetus can taste certain flavors in mom’s diet. The flavors show up in the amniotic fluid. In one study babies whose moms ate carrots frequently during pregnancy showed a stronger preference for carrot-favored cereal than babies whose mothers did not eat tons of carrots.

I encourage you to watch the talk and read the book. Amazingly, Paul’s research into fetal learning never veers into guilt-inducing territory. “Let me clear, fetal origins research is not about blaming women for what happens during pregnancy, it’s about discovering how best promote the health and well-being of the next generation. That important effort must include a focus on what fetuses learn in the nine months in the womb.”

Watch it here.

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