We continue exploring your baby’s world in the womb by considering the research of Dr. Patricia Kohl, from Seattle. Her work tells us that your baby begins to learn language as early as four months in utero. Kohl’s studies show that immediately after birth, your baby will responds to your voice and language, even when exposed to multiple languages and multiple female voices.  

As a result, if you talk, read, and sing to your baby in utero, while he is learning and growing inside your womb, not only will he respond to your native language after birth, but also to the stories read to him while he was developing in your womb.

Through new technology and ultrasound, we can now see the hidden world of the womb and watch your baby as he practices and rehearses sucking, breathing, exercising, seeing, blinking, and opening his eyes preparing for birth (source: Laura Flynn Mccarthy, What Babies Learn in the Womb).  

Furthermore, as a mother, you most likely know that your baby is reactive to the things that your eat and smell, whether sweet or sour, spicy or bitter. Your baby will also suck the walls of the placenta, when sweet is introduced to your diet. And, because your nutritional preferences pass through the wall of the placenta through the amniotic fluid, it impacts the taste buds for evermore. So, if you enjoy a varied diet, your baby is more likely to accept a menu of different foods after birth.  

Your baby is highly sensitized to your smell, which is the most familiar and powerful connection to his life in the womb. Thus, after birth, when he is placed on your tummy, between your breasts, he will follow your smell, as he roots toward your breast for feeding.  

Finally, as you might suspect, it appears that your baby really does dream.  Through ultrasounds, we can see that babies experiences REM sleep, that Rapid Eye Movement connected to a dream state. This first occurs about 32 weeks in utero. Also, through ultrasound, we can view your baby as he enters an alert period, where he appears to be thinking and focusing.  

While in utero, your baby explores and investigates everything that is available to him within his grasp and reach.

By four months, your baby responds to his environment. By about five months, he shows a unique curiosity to the world around him. For example, your baby will suck on and play with his appendages and digits his is thumb will not only be his most fascinating digit, but also the one he will most likely favor for the rest of his life.  

Also, your baby will play with whatever he can get his hands on, including his umbilical cord, from which he may even swing himself, back-and-forth. Your baby also jumps up and down, literally bouncing off the uterine wall, and walks around the womb, stabilizing himself against the placenta.

It is in this way that your baby strengthens his reflexes and muscles preparing for his sojourn through the birth canal and the long journey to reach mother’s breasts after birth. All of these efforts by your baby are teaching moments, helping him develop the skills necessary for birth. For example, opening and closing his eyes, blinking and sucking, are all important developmental stages that your baby must successfully pass through and master, to live outside the womb.

During gestation and after birth, your baby is all mouth. For it is his mouth that is his essential mode of discovery. In fact your baby will experience and explore the world around him primarily to the sensations and feelings available to him, in his mouth.In the final analysis, technology teaches us that your baby is not just an inert lump of tissue, waiting to be born. Rather, he is a viable baby, developing, practicing, and rehearsing the behavior important to his survival, while attaching deeply to the one person who can help him survive: you, his mother.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.