It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. Whilst a baby won’t understand everything there are benefits to reading at each stage.
The mother’s voice during pregnancy:
During pregnancy, around 30 weeks, babies develop the mechanisms for hearing. Babies can hear their mother’s voice in the last ten weeks. There are lots of other sounds going on in there including the mother’s heartbeat and other voices. Reading to your bump may make you feel a bit silly at first but it can be a great way for you or your partner to bond with your baby. Once your baby is born they can recognise voices that they heard in the womb and turn their heads towards them from an early age.
Reading to your preterm baby:
A mother’s voice is important in early childhood development. It has even been shown to improve the health of babies born early. In a recent review of 512 preterm infants, a mother’s voice was found to improve the health and behaviour of preterm babies. The benefits included decreased heart and breathing rates and improved alertness such as opening of eyes.
Reading to your baby 0- 8 weeks:
Reading out loud to your baby is a great way for babies to find comfort. Your baby won’t understand the words, but they will recognise your voice and your smell and enjoy the comfort. You can read anything at this stage; a newspaper, an email, or one of the many leaflets you’ve received from your Health Visitor! If you would like to read a baby book, it is interesting to note that babies respond more to faces than objects at this stage and they can only see about 20cm in front of them. Babies, of all stages, respond well to rhymes, rhythms and repetition so consider books with these elements.
Reading to your baby 8 weeks- 6 months:
By six months your baby will respond with smiles, gurgles and babbles to voices, faces and interactions. Mirrors can be an endless source of entertainment and some baby books include these. Your baby will reach out to touch the pictures. Lots of books have textured pictures to add to the sensory experience.
Reading to your baby 6 months- 12 months:
At this stage your baby will listen carefully, make noises and point and recognise familiar words such as bye-bye, mummy, dog. Reading to your baby at this stage will be more interactive as your baby looks at the pictures and at you. Your baby will almost certainly put grab the book and pages and try to eat them so cardboard books are good at this stage. When reading with your baby at this stage you can point to and name the pictures.