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Pregnancy Playlist: What Can Your Favorite Song Do For Your Baby?

There is much informal lore surrounding the idea of playing music to an unborn child. The practice has largely unknown effects due the difficulty of observing an unborn baby, but that doesn’t stop some determined parents from trying to influence their child’s development through music. While there is not strong evidence to show that it is beneficial, there is also no evidence that it is harmful, so it falls under the category of “can’t hurt and might help.”

How can playing music affect my baby’s intelligence?

One of the most common ideas circulated about music and unborn babies is that playing music, usually classical music, will make the baby more intelligent. So far, there have been no research trials that can answer this specific question. Musical training can help keep the brain sharp and may be associated with a reduction in the risk of dementia, but that is at the end of life, not the beginning. It is not clear what mechanism would lead classical music to make babies smarter. There is a little bit of evidence that babies in the womb can hear and react to music- obstetrician and author Rene Van de Carr claims that he has observed a baby breathing in time to classical music intentionally. But that only shows that the baby might be able to hear music—not that playing the music actually does anything for the baby’s development.

How can I try to play music for my own baby?

If you are thinking about trying to play music for your baby, one thing to keep in mind is that music does not need to be especially loud to for the baby to hear it. The amniotic fluid is a good conductor for sound. It is probably not a good idea to go to extra lengths to ensure the baby can hear. For example, do not put headphones on your abdomen or stand directly next to a radio turned up to the maximum volume. Instead, just have a radio or other music player near you at a comfortable volume. If you can hear it, it is likely the baby can hear it as well.

Is there a risk from playing music too loudly?

It isn’t just loud music that might hurt a baby- it is any loud sound. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is enough evidence about loud sounds and negative birth outcomes that mothers should be careful of sound louder than about 65 decibels. For reference, that is about as loud as a typical washing machine or dishwasher. Vacuum cleaners and hair dryers exceed that level of sound. Short-term exposure is probably not a large risk, but if the baby is around loud noise for a long enough time, it is more likely to be born premature, have lower birth weight, and experience early hearing loss.

Is it a good idea to play music to my baby?

Only you can decide what is best for your family. Right now, there is not much evidence to suggest that it makes a big difference either way. That doesn’t rule out that it might work—it is simply that researchers do not have enough evidence to make a recommendation one way or the other. That leaves the decision in your hands. As long as you are careful about the music being too loud, there is no known risk of negative consequences for playing music to an unborn baby. Remember that the baby isn’t the only party which stands to benefit from the playing of music. If the mother-to-be is on bed rest, which Dr. Gilbert Webb says may be beneficial for certain high-risk pregnancies, playing some music for the baby could prove a great way to pass the time in a positive way.

Weigh the potential outcomes and make the choice for yourself once you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Pregnancy Playlist: What Can Your Favorite Song Do For Your Baby?

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