Updated 15 February 2013

5 facts on your baby’s brain

Pregnancy is a short period in your baby’s long life of learning and development. Take the time to look at the latest research about early cognition and prenatal brain development.


Pregnancy is a relatively short period in your baby’s long life of learning and development so take the time to look at the latest research about early cognition and prenatal brain development.

No matter how you choose to communicate with your baby, after week 18 he’ll be listening and likely hungry for more. Babies with an enriched nurturing auditory environment often show an increased ability to self-soothe and are more responsive at birth. Later, parents of these same children report to have improved school readiness and longer attention spans.

Foetal brain development

Experience is an essential component of prenatal brain development. A prenatal child's specific experiences determine which connections are strengthened and expanded, and which connections are eliminated.

  • Connections that are used repeatedly become stronger.
  • Connections that are not used are eventually lost to pruning.
  • Repetition is important because it provides the child with multiple opportunities to strengthen connections and enhance prenatal brain development.

Bilingualism in babies starts in the womb

A recent joint study found infants born to bilingual mothers exhibited different language preferences than infants born to moms who speak only one language. Bilingualism has been linked to a variety of positive cognitive benefits, including early ready, better critical think skills and longer attention spans.

When it comes to IQ environment matters

In a study published in 2008 UCLA researchers found about 85% of the variation in white matter in the parietal lobe, which is involved in mathematics, logic, and visual-spatial skills, can be attributed to genetics. Only about 45% of the variation in the temporal lobe, which plays a central role in learning and memory, appears to be inherited.

This is the same part of the brain most impacted by an enriched auditory environment early in prenatal brain development. Being armed with this knowledge is empowering to expectant parents all over the world.

Foetal response to outside stimuli

Another important study came from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hua Chiew Hospital in Thailand. The study focused on the foetal response to outside stimuli and assessed the capacity of the foetus’ memory and learning in various senses.

Researchers trained 120 pregnant mothers to practice the prenatal activity of auditory enrichment. They used a heartbeat sound, music and rhythmic patting and rocking. The results provided further reinforcement that giving baby an enriched auditory environment before birth really can make a difference in prenatal brain development.

The outcome of these samples demonstrated that 87.5% of experimental infants can recognise maternal voice and 70% recognise to prenatal music. They calm down significantly when listening to prenatal music, heart beat sound, rhythmic patting and rocking pattern which they ever received during in utero. This suggests that foetus can learn variety of sensory stimuli even before birth and these previous experiences they received in utero during this important prenatal brain development period may influence postnatal learning and perception.

DHA in pregnancy: Should you supplement?

DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid) an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil helps build your baby’s brain, nervous system, and eyes.

“Omega -3s are a specific type of fate that our body needs but cannot make,” says Melinda Johnson, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietic Association. A baby in utero needs to get these fats from its mother for better prenatal brain development.

Researchers at the School of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Australia found that two years after birth, the children whose mothers had received a high dose of fish oil in the 2nd half of pregnancy , one of the important stages in prenatal brain development, had higher scores in tests of their hand-eye coordination.

Your brain is made up of about 60% omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil. And your baby's brain is about 70% of these acids. But studies show, you're probably deficient in them. In fact, most Westerners don't get enough of these important nutrients. According to the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, pregnant or lactating women need 200 mg of DHA a day. Researchers are still evaluating the best possible sources for DHA. Readily  available sources are salmon, sardines, walnuts, eggs and milk. If you would rather take a DHA supplement many researchers suggest you go for the one derived from algae rather than fish oil.


(Lisa Basmadjian, BabyPlus, e-mail visit



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