We’ve all heard the stories of various, often visceral, reactions mom’s or dad’s have experienced in times of intense stress or even just intense love. According to the most recent scientific discoveries, we have now learned that human babies in-utero are capable of memorizing auditory noises that they gather from the external world. They become more capable into the last trimester of the pregnancy, especially in relation to a particular sensitivity to the contour of the melody in both language and music. Newborns also most definitely show preference for their mother’s voice over a variety of other voices that have been rigorously tested. They can also perceive well the emotional content of messages shared by picking up on intonations in the mother’s speech.
Again, their abilities learned in gestation and in the newborn stage come their own perceptual preferences for their surrounding native language. And therefore their ability to distinguish pitch changes within different languages are based primarily on their ability to understand the melody. All of this explains why your newborn baby may pick up on your moods long before your words. If mom is feeling the baby blues and catches herself crying, it’s entirely normal for baby to become a weepy little being as well. So one of the ways in which newborn babies cry is actually in empathy. Very human and very primal.
The Science Behind the Crying Newborn
You don’t have to be a parent to feel compelled to help soothe a crying baby. Science has discovered that our brains are hard-wired to respond strongly to the sound, making us more attentive and priming our bodies to help whenever we hear it – even if we’re not the baby’s parents.
“The sound of a baby cry captures your attention in a way that few other sounds in the environment generally do,” shared Katie Young, a student at the University of Oxford who led a study on how the human brain processes a baby’s cries. Young and her colleague, Christine Parsons, presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.
Their study has strong implications that there is something unique about the way human beings react to baby sounds and how those sounds are processed by the brain. It’s vital to note that none of the study participants was a parent or had any particular experience of looking after babies, yet they all responded in the same way, after 100 milliseconds, to the baby cries.
“This might be a fundamental response present in all of us, regardless of parental status,” said Parsons.
Last, but Not Least (In fact, very much first) the Letdown
As any mother who has ever breastfed can tell you, just the sound of a crying infant can cause milk letdown. This very primitive biological reaction to a baby’s cries is one that has always remained vital and even when a new mother isn’t nursing, that milk letdown will still most likely happen until the milk dries out.
Don’t Forget, Always Consult a Medical Professional for a Baby Who Cries Inconsolably