When Do Babies Start Learning?

Ever wondered when babies start learning? Get the lowdown on when the learning process starts and how you can help enhance it.

It would seem logical to think that babies first start learning when they’re born, but in fact the learning process actually starts much earlier than this. Believe it or not, but babies begin to learn when they’re still a small foetus in their mothers womb. Various studies have shown that this is the case. For example, in one study by doctors in the Netherlands, they were able to tell that unborn babies were learning how to remember and react to certain sounds, when they were aged between 37 and 40 weeks.

Other research by experts in Canada and China found that an unborn baby is able to recognise its mothers voice by the third trimester of pregnancy. Not only was the recognition there, but it’s believed that this can help babies to learn and develop their first inklings of language ability at a very early stage.

Studies such as these emphasise the importance for mums and dads-to-be to talk to their baby, even when they’re still in the womb. As well as helping the bonding process – a baby will have built-up a recognition of your voices, so they’re familiar when you talk to him when he’s born – but it could also help lay vital foundations for the later development of language and talking skills.

In the same way that babies can recognise voices in the womb, it’s also been found that they respond to music too. This is why many parents play music, such as classical music or their favourite rock hits, to their babies during pregnancy. Once they are born, you may find they have already developed pre-requisite likes or dislikes to certain pieces of music after hearing them in the womb.

Post Birth Learning

Of course, despite the foundation of extremely early learning in the womb, babies gain lots more understanding and learning once they enter the world. As you’ll now be aware, babies have the potential to do a lot of learning at an early stage, so as soon as they’re born their awareness is there and they’re learning things all the time.

We may view their learning at this point as small, but for babies they are crucial steps in their learning process. For example, when you’ve come home from hospital and are settling back into life at home, a baby will be learning about the sounds, scents and things he sees around him. He’ll learn what it’s like to be put to sleep in his cot, what the blankets feel like, the sound of your footsteps, the noises going on in the house around him and what it feels like to be fed and changed.

In the first couple of months, babies will be interested in new objects you put near them, so mobiles above their cot or safe toys for them to play with are all good. Although they won’t yet be actively playing with things, something that’s colourful and interesting will grab their attention and they’ll be carefully studying it with their eyes or listening to any noises it makes.

In the early months, other key signs of learning take place on an emotional level too. Babies will learn how you respond to their needs, what it’s like to be smiled at – and smile back – and how to poke their tongue out. Interacting with your baby at this time is really important, as it not only aids the bonding process, but also the learning process too. So do all you can for your baby, and you’ll be setting them in a good position for all their future learning.