8,000 neurons per second
One day I gave a lecture to a group of expecting couples. A woman and her husband came up to me afterward, looking anxious. “My father is a ham radio operator,” the wife said. “He told my husband that he should start tapping on my belly. Is that a good thing?” She looked puzzled. So did I. “Why tapping?” I asked. The husband said, “Not just any tapping. He wants me to learn Morse code. He wants me to start tapping messages into the kid’s brain, so the little guy will be smart. Maybe we could teach him to tap back!” The wife interjected, “Will that make him smart? My belly is really sore, and I don’t like it.”
I remember this being a funny moment; we had a good laugh. But it was also sincere. I could see the questioning look in their eyes.
Whenever I lecture on the extraordinary mental life of the developing fetus, I can almost feel a wave of panic ripple across the room. Pregnant couples in the audience become concerned, then start furiously scribbling down notes, often talking in excited whispers to their neighbors. Parents with grown children sometimes seem satisfied, sometimes regretful; a few even look guilty. There is skepticism, wonder, and, above all, lots of questions. Can a baby really learn Morse code in the latter stages of pregnancy? And if he could, would it do him any good?
Scientists have uncovered many new insights about a baby’s mental life in the womb. In this chapter, we’ll delve into the magnificent mystery of how brains develop—all starting from a handful of tiny cells. We’ll talk about what that means for Morse code, detailing the things proven to aid in utero brain development. Hint: There are only four. And we will explode a few myths along the way; for one, you can put away your Mozart CDs.
Practical tip #3: Eat your fruits and veggies
The best advice is still the oldest: a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. This is simply replicating the nutritional experiences forged over our inescapable evolutionary history. Along with enough folic acid, pediatricians suggest eating foods rich in iron, iodine, vitamin B12, and omega-3.
Remember the flavor programming, where mothers who drank carrot juice had babies who liked carrot juice? This notion requires more research, but it is very possible that helping a child start a lifelong love affair with vegetables (or, more probably, a lifelong “I don’t hate all vegetables” affair) may start with you eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Next up: Brain Rules for Baby: Your Relationship