The Powerful Sound of a Mother’s Voice
Have you ever noticed how tiny babies calm down or even doze off simply by listening to their mother hum a quiet song or making a wordless shushing noise? Or how moms can elicit those sweet first baby smiles by talking to their little ones and it doesn’t seem to matter what words are said as long as they are said in certain tones?
It seems intuitive that something about a mother’s voice connects her to her child and science backs this up over and over. In studying brain stimulation as children listened to various voices, researchers found that children could identify their own mother’s voice in less than a second. Additionally, the parts of the brain responsible for social and emotional development were more engaged when hearing their mother’s voice compared to other voices.
For premature infants, who are often too fragile to be held for extended periods of time, hearing their mother’s voice has been linked to healthy weight gain and brain stimulation. At one hospital, researchers played recordings of mothers singing lullabies and reading books to premature infants. After one month, they noted increased brain growth in infants who heard their mother's voice reading & singing to them for several hours a day. A mother’s voice can also provide comfort and calm for hospitalized infants of all ages during medical procedures. One study found that babies were in less distress during painful procedures if they were able to listen to their mother speaking during the procedure.
It's not just babies who benefit from the sound of their mother’s voice, but older children as well. For children, hearing a mother’s voice can be just as effective as a hug in situations where mom can’t physically be there to offer comfort. When researchers looked at the hormone response of girls ages 7-12 placed in stressful situations, they found that girls who were able to speak to their mother by phone had similar improvements in stress hormone levels as girls who got to have face to face conversations with their mothers. Meanwhile, girls who only communicated with their mothers by text, did not see the same positive stress hormone effects.
All of this amazing science shows us that moms have a readily accessible, yet extremely powerful tool at their disposable. Here are 3 easy ways for moms to tap into the power of their own voice:
- Read aloud – even to older kids who could read to themselves. We already know there are so many benefits to reading aloud to children of all ages – from strengthening literacy skills like vocabulary and comprehension to using reading material as great conversation starters on different topics. Hearing a story read to them in their mother’s voice takes the reading experience to the next level – enhancing the emotional connection to the story and to the person reading aloud. The great news is you don’t need to limit yourself to books – all reading aloud counts – from comic books, magazines and even the back of cereal boxes or information pamphlets.
- Talk, talk, talk and talk some more! Similar to reading, talking to babies and toddlers has a multitude of language and communication benefits. Keep it simple - you don’t need to set aside a special time to talk or talk about anything in particular. You can narrate even the mundane and boring parts of your day – talk about what you are cooking for dinner and what you are shopping for at the store. The more we talk to little ones, the more we increase the amount and variety of words they hear, helping them better understand and use language while the sound of mom’s voice is also enhancing connection and stimulating their brains.
- Leave an old school voice message. In this text heavy world your tweens & teens may tease you about the idea of leaving a voicemail but do it anyway! Those of us who grew up long before text messaging can remember the joy in replaying answering machine messages over and over and saving the special ones. Or you can try using a voice message app like Voxer for quick walkie talkie style messages back and forth.
What an incredible tool we have at our fingertips in the power of a mother’s voice- healer, comforter and priceless connector between mother and child.