Health Matters: Reading to your baby in the womb

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– Educators say literacy starts at an early age. So early that the NICU Unit at Baptist Health is encouraging new and expecting moms to start reading to their baby in the womb. Our new mom to be, KARK 4 Today host Susanne Brunner, learned more about why picking up a book during pregnancy is important in the long run.

“Reading is the springboard to get mothers to engage with their baby,” said Margaret Johnson, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Margaret Johnson is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Baptist Health. Not only does she help treat babies in the NICU, but she is also encouraging moms to read.

“We know that by 24 weeks gestation, babies can actually hear sound. And somewhere around 32 and 35 weeks gestation babies can actually recognize and understand some language,” Margaret Johnson, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Now in Susanne’s final trimester, she’s learned reading creates a bond with your child, and is a great stepping stone for moms to talk to their babies more before they are born.

“I catch myself saying some things [to him], but it’s not as often as I probably should,” Susanne told Johnson.

Turns out, she’s had a pretty good start. Since Susanne’s first trimester, she’s been reading at various elementary schools for her reading initiative to promote reading at an early age. Johnson says expectant mothers have the advantage of helping their child in the long run.

“What we also know is that a baby’s vocabulary by the age of three is the greatest predictor of how they’re going to perform academically,” says Johnson.

Johnson has helped make picking up a book easier for parents at the hospital. It’s hard to keep the book shelves fully stocked in the NICU Unit.

“The bookshelves were almost empty which for me is a great sign because that shows me that moms have taken books and that they’re reading to their babies,” she says.

On Wednesday, January 8, Susanne shares the story of a mother who’s developed a special bond with her baby through reading. She’s like many parents who spend week after week in the NICU waiting for the moment they get to bring their child home.

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