Baby May Practice Crying Even Before They Are Born, Study Says

Scientists say the discovery has the potential to completely change the way we look at speech development.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
September 14, 2022
young boy resting his head on his mother's pregnant belly

It’s hard to forget baby’s first cry. For many parents, it’s a defining moment that officially signals after months of pregnancy and hours of labor, baby has finally entered the world. But while this may be the first time you hear your child’s voice, a new study shows that baby may have been practicing their cries months before they are born.

For the study scientists took dozens of successive ultrasounds of pregnant common marmosets—one of human’s closest evolutionary relations—to observe baby’s facial expressions. While a previous study had touched on in utero facial expressions, marmosets were chosen for this study based on the need to frequently ultrasound the participants three or four times a week.

The results of the ultrasounds showed that baby began making cry-like facial expressions nearly two months before birth. By distinguishing these cry-like expressions from other facial movements in utero and matching the expressions to those made once baby was born, scientists concluded that these must be practice cries.

More than just an adorable dress rehearsal, scientists say that the discovery of these practice cries is big news when it comes to speech and motor development. In an interview with National Geographic study co-author Daniel Takahashi explained that “the central finding will help illuminate when speech development begins, and that studying pre-birth—rather than the moment of birth—may help identify speech or motor development problems earlier.”

While the researchers acknowledge the need for more studies, especially those with human subjects, the idea of being able to intervene and assist baby with speech and motor development on day one is incredibly exciting.

If you are interested in learning more about how to give baby the best start from day one, consider these tips for boosting your little one’s speech sound development in the first year.

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