The Mozart Effect
Some experts believe that classical music, in particular, primes our brains for certain kinds of thinking. The classical music pathways in our brains are similar to the pathways we use for spatial reasoning, and what we consider to be classical music has a more complex musical structure than other types of music such as rock or country; however, listening to any kind of music will help to build music-related pathways and stimulate the brain (especially the right hemisphere).
Although it is commonly believed that the Mozart Effect is just playing the music of Mozart to your baby, either in utero or after birth, this is not the case. According to the Mozart Effect Resource Center in St. Louis, Missouri, “The Mozart Effect is an inclusive term signifying the transformational powers of music in health, education, and well-being. It represents the general use of music to reduce stress, depression or anxiety, induce relaxation or sleep, and also improves memory or awareness.”
Even if a parent doesn’t pointedly play Mozart for her baby, she likely has an innate sense of her child’s love for music and rhythm. Parents speak to their infants in lyrical, sing-song voices that children respond to, and many parents incorporate rocking a baby to sleep while singing lullabies into baby’s bedtime routine. Baby doesn’t mind that the music isn’t Mozart; he is just glad to have Mom or Dad’s attention in song and motion.
An additional benefit of allowing a baby to become familiar with certain music or tunes is that it may help to soothe him once he is born or is very young, acting as a trigger and helping him settle down or fall asleep.
Marcelle Falconer found this to be true with her 14-month-old daughter, Maxine. “Max won’t sleep without listening to music, and if she is crying, as soon as I put on her music she keeps quiet and puts her head on my shoulder and calms down,” she says. “It is incredible how well it works—like a sleeping tablet without the drugs.”
Falconer did not play music to Maxine while she was in utero but says she puts the “blame” firmly on the neonatal unit where Maxine was kept for two weeks after being born six weeks prematurely. “She was right next to the radio and they had music playing 24 hours, day and night. When I took her home I tried to wean her off the music, but . . . it has proved almost impossible. Every time she went into the hospital and the unfamiliar surroundings it became increasingly difficult to settle her so we decided to try the music trick again—and, bingo, it worked.”