July 02, 2015

Q: How well can my baby hear?

A: Your baby's born a keen listener, since she's been able to detect sounds ever since the third trimester. She'll recognize familiar voices -- especially yours, since she listened to it the most in the womb. She may even know songs and stories she heard during the last six weeks of your pregnancy. By the time she's 1 month old, a baby can tell the difference between certain sounds, like 'pa' and 'ba.' At about 6 months, she can recognize and begin responding to her name. This is also when your baby starts babbling and discovers another sound she loves -- her own voice! Babies also generally love white noises, like the vacuum cleaner, radio static, and the hum of a fan, which reminds them of the soothing whooshing noises in the womb. Music also appeals to them, especially lullabies and nursery rhymes, as well as that high-pitched, singsong voice we all use when we talk to babies. Lower-frequency sounds are less engaging. You may think your baby needs silence in order to sleep, but she's actually used to the (loud) sounds of your body from her time in the womb. So make some noise (do laundry, run the dishwasher, etc.) while she naps -- she may actually sleep better! --Carol Sjostrom Miller

Originally published in the March 2007 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

Answered by Parents Team