Don't turn your womb into a "boom-boom room"

Doctors warn against playing music to your unborn baby

Published February 11, 2010 6:12PM (EST)

Twenty years ago, back in the go-go 1990s, French ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Alfred Tomatis published his book "Pourquoi Mozart?" which claimed that playing music to your baby in utero could increase its IQ. Since then, making playlists for your fetus has become de rigueur, Web sites have sprung up debating whether listening to Mozart or Bach will make your baby smarter, and there's been a deluge of prenatal audio equipment. You can buy headphones that fit around your belly or a CD compilation created specifically for little Jim-Bob's still developing ears.

But, as it turns out, those "womb boxes" might be doing more harm than good -- or, as the New York Post reports, "Doctors are now warning against the potential hazards of a mother turning her womb into a boom-boom room." (When you put it that way, it sounds kind of awesome.) Pediatrician Dr. David Cabbad at the Brooklyn Hospital Center notes that the piped-in tunes could hinder a babies' sleep pattern. "They're in a womb, a protected atmosphere," Cabbad told the Post. "Now you're going to give them outside interference? Why don't we give them a cellphone too?" (But just think how cute baby BlackBerrys would be!)

There's not a lot of research out there that actually confirms or refutes Dr. Tomatis' theory -- the good doctor himself, it should be noted, ended up giving up his license after he was discredited by the medical community -- but it seems pretty clear that, well, duh, playing music to your baby before his eardrums are fully formed doesn't necessarily do much good. Sudden bursts of noise -- I know, I know, even Lady Gaga -- aren't particularly pleasant even when you're not floating in amniotic fluid. Baby boomboxes are just as silly as they look. What to do if you really want to amp up your baby's IQ? Wait until after labor and buy a couple of books. "I'd suggest going with something we know makes babies smarter — invest in books and start reading to your child when they are about 4 months old," recommends Bernard P. Dreyer of NYU's department of development pediatrics. So hold the headphones, ladies. There's plenty of time to introduce baby to Beyoncé outside of the womb.


By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Salon and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in New York City.

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