How your vocal tone during pregnancy can affect your baby throughout life

A few days ago, I asked my six-year-old son to finish his breakfast and get ready for school. He said: “Mom, if you say it in a nice way, I would do it.”

This stopped me in my tracks. Wow, I thought. I was rushing him to finish his food to be sure he went to school with a full belly. But my pushing tone didn’t work. He wanted me to talk to him in that kind-but-firm tone of voice that helps him feel safe—the tone that reassures him that he is loved. The voice I used when he was small, and when I was pregnant with him.

When we put together our Blooming Together program, I studied and learned about the importance of the state of a mother’s mood and emotions during pregnancy. Yet I never imagined that six years later, my child would still be so influenced by it! Recent research is increasingly highlighting the short and long-term impact on one’s health during intrauterine life. In fact, now, next to nature and nurture influences (genetics and upbringing) we have to add a third aspect when we look at our physical and emotional health factors, and that is, the environment inside the womb before we are born (more on this below).

During a checkup at my 27th week or pregnancy, my midwife had my husband and I listen to our baby’s heartbeat. She described his body position to us as we listened. Then she asked my husband to talk to the baby directly, as if they were having a conversation. Our baby’s heartbeat immediately rose by 20 beats/min. Was he excited by the interaction? When my husband changed his tone of voice to speak with the midwife, our baby’s heartbeat returned to normal. He had not only recognized his voice but even more, he could clearly tell when the voice was directed towards him.

That was a big lesson for us in how much babies listen, and how much they are affected by us, their parents. As we wrote in our book Blooming Together:

The Genome Project that mapped human genes, and the field of research that it has triggered, has shown that, even more important than genetic coding, what is passed onto our kids at conception is the modulation of how those genes will express themselves.

Studies confirm that genes govern the type of brain cell produced, its location and function, and what type of neurotransmitters it will respond to. But whether a particular neuron will develop further and realize its full potential, or go unused and wither away, depends on external stimulation—everything from sight to sound to stress (The Dana Foundation, brain research).

Furthermore, studies done by Harvard University, such as “The Environment and Experiences of Pregnant Mothers Affect Fetal Brain Development” by the Center of Developing Child (2007), show how experiences during pregnancy can change maternal chemistry in ways that ultimately lead to very specific effects on the development of the fetal nervous system.

For example, we found out that the tender tone of a loving mother’s voice enhances serotonin (the “happy-calming” hormone) levels in the baby’s brain.

I had forgotten that speaking in a softer tone could have such an influence on my kid! Thankfully, he reminded me of this. There he was, asking me to get back to the sweet tone I used to use when talking to him, apart from the demands of daily life and activity and the seeming distance of having your child outside of your belly. The impact of what we say is more from the tone than from the intrinsic meaning of the words themselves. Tone can give safety, that was my lesson.

I know that the tone of my voice will go with him.

 

Maybe try it out?

Try speaking to your child or baby in a softer and direct tone, even when you’re in a hurry, and see what happens.

 

How do I remind myself to speak in a kinder tone of voice when rushing when multitasking, preparing lunch, doing laundry and getting ready for work?

Fair. Fine. It is true that we cannot be in a “Zen” mood 24/7 when we have kids, lives, mortgages, rents, and tons of things to do. But, like everything thing else, we owe it to ourselves be more aware. It just takes practice.

Speaking in a softer tone of voice will help you relax, be more connected, and make better decisions. In our program, we have several guided meditations for pregnancy and also, for after birth, to help you keep the groovy mood going. And, every week, we speak to our babies with a loving tone.

Here we are sending a guided visualization for week 23. By then, your baby’s ears have been well developed and he/she has been listening and recognizing the tone of your voice. Click below and enjoy it!!

Listen to the Sample Below!

 

Enjoy it and lets keep

Blooming Together