Scientists in the US say premature babies should be played the sound of their mother’s voice and heartbeat while in incubators to help aid their brain development.
The experts from Harvard Medical School say the sound helps to play a critical role in a baby’s early development.
It follows a study, based on premature infants, that suggests a mother’s voice may be directly linked to development of the auditory cortex that is the part of the brain which processes language.
The mothers of premature children had their voices recorded as they read and sang along to them.
They were then played to babies in incubators for around three hours a day.
Experts say they found the method increased the growth of areas of the brain responsible for hearing.
Doctor Amir Lahav, is a paediatrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a researcher at Harvard Medical School.
He said: “We demonstrate that the auditory cortex is more adaptive to womb-like maternal sounds than to environmental noise.
“These results are supported by the biological fact that maternal sounds would otherwise be present in utero had the baby not been born prematurely.
“Exposure to maternal sounds may provide newborns with the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.”
The findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is hoped they could help guide doctors and parents caring for premature babies, who often suffer from developmental and cognitive disabilities.
During pregnancy mothers are urged to speak or sing to their unborn babies.
Studies suggest that a developing foetus begins to hear sounds as early as 20 weeks.
For tips on talking to your unborn child visit: www.babycentre.co.uk