Health Information

Psychology of fetal development


For the full development of the baby, the correct formation of the regimen of the baby's day and the competent alternation of wakefulness and rest cycles, it is important for parents to know what phases of sleep the infant has.

The main “work” of a newborn baby in the first days of life is feeding and sleeping. And if the question of nutrition is clear (there is nothing better than breastfeeding), then the topic of sleep often confuses parents. There is no clear understanding of how much a child should sleep, why one baby calmly rests all night, while the other wakes up from the slightest noise. Not the last role, of course, is played by the individual characteristics of the baby, but nevertheless, the structure and physiology of the infant’s sleep are subordinate to a certain model.

Sleeping for a newborn is almost the same as breathing

For a little man who has just been born, it is difficult to achieve strict observance of the regime of the day, because he does not have the function of an internal clock, and he is not able to distinguish day from night. The baby's body adapts to the conditions of existence outside the womb, and this is a considerable burden for him.

But to adapt to external environmental conditions, the child's rest should last 16-20 hours a day. Approximately every 2-3 hours, the baby wakes up to eat, then, having satiated, is again immersed in a nap. Less than an hour, the food is digested by the baby, because the break is so short.

Sleep, especially in the first weeks after birth, is a continuation of behavioral reactions in the embryonic state.

Is the baby sleeping in the womb?

Sonographic scanning was able to prove that, while in the mother’s womb, the child spends considerable time in a state of rest.

  1. The first signs of peace, which can be described as a real dream appear by the 28th week. At this stage, restless limb movements, twitching of the eyelids and changing facial expression are observed.
  2. At about the eighth month of pregnancy, the baby’s sleep becomes calm, during this period he remains motionless for a long time, facial features are smoothed out.
  3. Immediately before childbirth, the cyclical nature of the calm and restless state of this physiological process is manifested.

By the way, many mothers are worried about the fact that their child in the tummy behaves “invisibly” during the day, but at night arranges real battles, kicking and tossing and turning. Fear is associated with a possible confusion after childbirth in time of day. But this is understandable: pregnant, swaying smoothly while walking, at the same time lulls and cradles the baby. At night, without feeling the rhythmic movements, the child begins to become active. No wonder almost all children instantly fall asleep when swaying in a stroller or in their arms.

Sleep after birth

The first weeks and even months after birth is a kind of continuation of the intrauterine life, and staying in the arms of Morpheus continues to be the main occupation of the baby. Peace can reach up to 5-6 hours during this period, and many parents wonder if it is worth interrupting such a long pause between feedings, will the baby lose weight?

No matter how imperfect the baby’s body seems, it obeys its natural biorhythms and should not be interfered with. The child himself feels when it is time for him to eat or sleep. The first 2-3 months, if the child does not bother, prolonged rest is a normal occurrence.

An alarm should be given in the event that a prolonged sleep, without awakening for feeding, becomes the norm. This mode contributes to dehydration and depletion of the body and may indicate pathology. Identify the cause will help the pediatrician.

Closer to 4-5 months, the little man begins to show interest in the world around him, and the periods of recovery become longer and longer.

Characteristics of daytime and nightly sleep of infants

Ideally, the newborn’s daytime rest should last 9 hours, at night the baby sleeps for at least 10-11 hours with breaks for feeding (3-4 times). Of course, these are average norms, it also happens that a child is awake a lot during the day, but then the night rests soundly.

For babies, the day merges together, without separation into light (day) and dark (night) segments. The task of parents to teach the baby to share these concepts and realize that the day is intended for active classes, and the night is a time of rest. Frequent waking of the baby after sunset is due to a number of factors:

  • a breast-fed baby wakes up more often, since mother’s milk is absorbed faster than adapted formulas,
  • the hot and dry climate in the room makes the baby thirsty,
  • refusal of diapers in favor of diapers will force parents to get up more often to change wet sheets,
  • a baby sleeping separately from her mother feels discomfort from losing contact with a loved one.

The child’s daytime sleep is divided into segments, the number of which decreases as the baby grows older. By four months this is 3-4 stages of rest, by 6 months there is morning, afternoon and evening sleep, and by 1.5 years, children usually sleep once during the day.

To build healthy skills, it is important to clearly follow the sequence of rituals. So, the awakening, accompanied by hygienic procedures (washing, washing, cleaning the nose, ears) will be associated in the child with the morning period. Walks, as a rule, take place during the day, but going to bed is associated in the memory of the baby with evening bathing, feeding and quiet lulling.

Physiology of Baby Sleep: Biological Cycle and Internal Clock

Any life activity of a person, including a child, is subject to the cyclical processes occurring in the body, the name of which is biorhythms. Thanks to biological cycles, a person is able to adapt to the change of day and night, seasons, time zones.

Even before birth, the baby lays down biorhythms, and, observing how the system of cycles manifests itself, you can painlessly build the daily routine of the baby. It is only necessary to properly adjust the internal clock in accordance with the natural biological course. Here are some suggestions:

  • The process of internal time can and should be controlled. Adults should strive to ensure that the hours of awakening, going to bed, eating a child every day remain constant.
  • Sunlight is the main coordinator of biorhythms, so on a dark winter morning, you can help your baby wake up in time with the help of electric light, and, conversely, darken the room with blackout curtains on a bright summer evening.
  • The human body responds to its internal clock with correction of body temperature: during the period of falling asleep, it decreases, and with the approach of rise it rises. The child will fall asleep more easily in a well-ventilated cool room.

According to Pavlov’s teaching, “sleep has a protective and saving meaning for the brain” and if it is full, the child is healthy, gaining weight well and not lagging behind in physical development.

Based on the value of rest periods, a sleep table has been developed for young children.

Child ageDuration of night restDuration of day restThe number of days of restTotal resting time
1 month8-8.5 hours6-7 hours314-15.5 hours
3 months9.5-10 hours5-5.5 hours314.5-15.5 hours
6 months10.5-11 hours3-3.5 hours213.5-14.5 hours
9 months10.5-11 hours3 hours213.5-14 hours
12 months11 o'clock2.5 hours214.5 hours
18 months11 o'clock2-2.5 hours113-13.5 hours

It should be borne in mind that the time given is averaged and can vary depending on the physical, psychological factors and temperament of the child.

Features and distinctive features of the resting stages

Young children do not sleep like adults do, the phases of a baby’s sleep differ in their sequence and duration. The functioning systems of the baby’s body, in the first place, the brain are imperfect, so the pattern of action of two important states of rest - fast and slow sleep is specific.

Paradoxical phase

REM sleep is dominant in the life of a newborn. Its other name is the REM period (in the translation “active eye movement”) or BDG - “fast eye movements”. The stage found a similar name for shaking eyelashes and pupils quickly running under them. According to these signs, the paradoxical phase can mislead parents - they can find the child awake.

At the stage of fast microwave sleep, processes that are very important for the baby are:

  • training and stimulating brain development through vivid dreams,
  • relaxation and stress relief,
  • rethinking and consolidating new information,
  • brain reload.

A paradoxical dream is a shallow state of rest, in this phase the child plunges immediately from the state of wakefulness.

The brain at this stage is active and as if drifting at the edge of consciousness. As the baby grows, the proportion of the fast phase decreases.

Orthodox or deep sleep

The stage of non-fast (slow) sleep, or non-REM (translated as “without active eye movement”) is formed at the stage of more mature development of the cerebral cortex. It is she who is responsible for a quiet night's rest. There are 4 degrees of the orthodox phase:

  • A nap is a superficial rest, the baby reacts to all sounds.
  • Falling asleep is a transitional state between a drome and peace; an infant may wake up due to extraneous noise.
  • Deep sleep - the body is relaxed, the handle-legs become heavier, there is no reaction to weak interference.
  • A very deep sleep - a complete disconnection from the external environment, noises do not affect the child, artificial removal from this state completely disorients the baby.

This phase of rest is important for the full formation and normal development of the child. The strength of the crumb is restored, the spent energy is renewed, the body is rebooted. The slow stage is short-lived, no more than half an hour, but over time its duration increases, as the baby becomes more active and more tired.

BDG or what do you dream about, baby?

The paradoxical phase of sleep in newborns, as has been noted, is colored with dreams. What visions and spectacles make the baby smile, wrinkle her nose, frown, twitch her arms and legs? After all, his knowledge of the surrounding reality is negligible.

There is no consensus on dreams in infants, either among scientists or among neurosurgeons. But there is an idea that at the stage of formation of interneuronal connections, a person sees color spots, or the very first and warmth that he constantly encounters is mother's breast.

In addition to visual images, sensations can serve as components of dreams: after all, the baby already distinguishes between cold and heat, wet or dry. And over time, as the information is replenished, the child will already see relatives and familiar objects in a dream.

Sleep phases in the first year of a baby’s life

From about the 3rd month of life, the baby’s sleep is similar to the rest of the older ones, with the exception of the duration of the cycles. A full circle consists of four stages of a slow phase and one REM sleep. In infancy, a single cycle is 45-50 minutes, after 5 years it approaches an hour, and only after 10-12 years it is equated to an adult.

The table below shows the change in the ratio of the paradoxical phase of sleep in infants in the first year of life by month.

Child ageThe share of the fast phase,%
First month70-75
Up to 3 months45-50
Up to 5 months37- 40
From six months to a year35-40

Most often, children wake up at a paradoxical stage, the quantitative component of which prevails over the orthodox. That is why the rest of infants is intermittent and short-lived.

Sleep is an indispensable condition for the physical and psycho-emotional development of the baby.

Undoubtedly, sleep, along with feeding, plays a paramount role in the life of the baby. At rest, the child’s body is restored, removes traces of fatigue and overwork. The brain “digests” the flow of information received during wakefulness and prepares for a new portion of knowledge and emotions. During the rest period, the baby gains height and weight, a good rest contributes to a good appetite, steady mood and intellectual development.

Lack of sleep is extremely harmful for the nervous system of the child and can lead to chronic disorders, up to neurosis. Professor N. Krasnogorsky revealed that even a two-hour sleep deficit leads to negative weight fluctuations. In the future, such children may have behavioral reactions such as “disobedience syndrome”.

Sleep takes a direct part in the complex process of developing the functions of memory, attention, and systematization. In addition, it has been proven that growth hormone, so important for the baby, is activated in the first two hours of a night's rest. The task of parents is to create all conditions for a full and healthy sleep of their child.

Fetal susceptibility

Scientists who daily observe the development of the fetus believe that most of the time the fetus sleeps, and does not work out its new skills. At the 32nd week, sleep takes 90-95% of the time per day. Part of this time, the fetus sleeps in deep sleep, part in fast sleep, and another part of it is in an intermediate state, which is the result of the activity of the developing brain, and which is different from the sleep of a newborn, child and adult. In the REM stage, the fetus moves its eyes like adults do, and many scientists consider this a dream. DiPetro suggests that the fetus dreams about what he knows - about the sensations he experiences in the womb.

Closer to the birth, the fetus sleeps from 85% to 90% of the time, like a newborn. Between the moments of short sleep, the fetus experiences “something like a period of wakefulness,” - this is the opinion of evolutionary psychologist, Ph.D. William Fileer, who, together with colleagues from the University of Columbia, observes sleep and wake cycles in order to identify examples of normal and abnormal development brain, as well as make possible predictions regarding the sudden death syndrome of a newborn. “We are actually asking the fetus: what are you paying attention to? Is your nervous system functioning properly? ”Says Filer.

Fetal movements

Regardless of whether the human embryo is sleeping or awake, it makes more than 50 movements per hour, bending and stretching the body, moving the head and muscles of the face, limbs, exploring its warm and moist space to the touch. Hydeleise Als, Ph.D., an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical College, says: “It's amazing how many tactile sensations the embryo experiences: it touches the hand to the face, one hand to the other, connects the feet, touches the foot to the foot, and the hand to the umbilical cord.”

Als is sure that there is a mismatch between the living conditions of premature babies in hospitals and the conditions in which they would develop in utero. For many years, she worked to change the conditions in which premature babies develop so that they can bend, keep their knees together, and touch their hands with objects, as they would do inside the womb for several more weeks.

Along with these simple movements, DiPetro also notes some strange actions of the fetus, for example, “licking the walls of the uterus and literally walking through the womb - pushing the legs away from the walls of the uterus”. Unlike the first-born, the second and subsequent children have much more space for these maneuvers.After the first pregnancy, the uterus becomes larger, the umbilical cord is longer, which allows the fetus to move freely inside. The second and subsequent children may have more developed intrauterine motility and be more active after birth, DiPetro suggests.

The fetus closely monitors the movements of the mother. “When we watch the embion on an ultrasound scan and the mother begins to laugh, we can see how he turns upside down,“ springs up ”on his head, like on a springboard,“ boom-boom-boom, ”says DiPetro. “When the mother sees this on the screen, she starts laughing even harder, and the embryo jumps even more often. And we wonder why, when growing up, people like to ride a roller coaster. "

Taste of the fetus

The reasons that adults love hot peppers and spicy seasonings may also be related to fetal development. By 13-15 weeks, the buds of taste buds already look like adults, and doctors know that the amniotic fluid surrounding the embryo tastes like a mixture of curry, cumin, garlic, onion and other spices from the mother’s table. Whether their embryos can be felt is not yet clear, but scientists have found that premature babies born at the 33rd week suck a sweetened nipple more than a simple rubber.

“During the last trimester, the fetus swallows up to a liter of amniotic fluid per day,” said Julie Menella, Ph.D., a biopsychologist at the Monell Center, who studies sensations arising from chemical stimuli in Philadelphia. She believes that the taste of amniotic fluid can serve as a "transitional link" to the taste of breast milk, which also contains a smack of foods from the mother's table.

Hearing sensations of the fetus

It is unclear whether the embryo tastes or not, but what he hears is beyond doubt. A preterm baby (24–25 weeks old) who is born reacts to the sounds around him, ”says Als,“ that is, his hearing aid must function in the womb. ” Many pregnant women notice tremors and sudden bumps inside immediately after the door slammed or the car engine started.

The womb is not a quiet place, even if the above sounds do not penetrate. Scientists who placed the hydrophone in the uterus of a pregnant woman, with its help, caught sounds similar to the background noise in the apartment, - says DiPietro. These are sounds made during the movement of blood through the mother’s vessels, rumbling in her stomach and intestines, as well as the timbre of her voice, “filtered” through tissues, bones and fluids, voices of other people passing through the walls of the uterus. Fyfer discovered that the fetal heart rate slows down when the mother speaks, he suggested that the fetus not only hears and recognizes sounds, but also calms down by hearing them.

Fetal visual sensations

Vision develops last. A baby born significantly premature can see light and forms. Scientists suggest that the fetus has the same ability. Just as there is no absolute silence in the womb, there is no absolute darkness. Fayler believes: “There may be enough visual stimuli passing through the tissues of the mother’s body so that the fetus can react when the mother is in a brightly lit room, such as when taking sun baths.”

Japanese scientists even report special reactions of the fetus to flashes of light near the mother’s stomach. However, other researchers believe that exposing the fetus (or premature baby) to the light before it can perceive it can be dangerous. A high concentration of oxygen in the air has long been considered the cause of retinal disorders in premature babies, while in fact they could be caused by excessive exposure to light at a certain stage of development, says Als from Harvard.

The brain cells of a six-month-old fetus, born about 14 weeks ahead of schedule, are not ready to receive signals from the eyes, transmit them to the part of the brain that is responsible for vision, and from there to the frontal lobes, where visual information is integrated. When the fetus is forced to see too much and too early, says Als, forced visual sensations can lead to aberrations (deviations) in the development of the brain.

Cognitive activity of the fetus

Along with the ability to feel, see and hear, the fetus has the ability to learn and remember. These activities can be rudimentary, automatic, and even triggered by biochemical reactions. For example, the fetus, for the first time reacting to a stimulus, eventually ceases to do this with regular repetition of the same stimulus. Fyfer discovered that, in response to the mother’s voice, the fetus shows a primitive way of remembering called addiction.

But the fetus shows much greater abilities. In the 80s, a professor of psychology and Ph.D. Anthony James Dee Casper and colleagues at the University of Greensboro, North Carolina, conducted a study that proved that a baby can change the rate of breast sucking depending on the music that is currently being worn on him headphones. With the help of this study, it is possible for Di Casper to show that within a few hours after birth, the baby can already distinguish the mother’s voice from the voice of another person, as well as make the assumption that the baby recognized and remembered it in the womb in the last months of pregnancy, although not the fact that he did it consciously. More recently, Di Casper discovered that a newborn prefers to listen to fairy tales he had previously heard in his womb - “Puss in Boots” in this experiment — rather than new stories told to him shortly after birth.

But that is not all. Newborns can not only distinguish mother’s speech from another person’s speech, they remember and even recognize the melody and elements of mother’s speech. It has been established that infants prefer to hear mother’s speech in their native language than her or another person’s speech in a foreign language.

Observing changes in the fetal heart rate, the psychologist, Ph.D. Jean Pierre Lecanyu, together with his colleagues from Paris, also confirmed that the child already in the womb distinguishes between the timbre of the voice and the elements of speech: he calmed down while reading a familiar fairy tale in a familiar voice, the change the voices of the reader or the text of the tale no longer caused changes in his behavior.

The fetus responds to changes in the timbre of the voice and tempo of the tale, and not to certain words, says Fyfer, but the conclusion is the same: the fetus can hear, remember and remember the sounds that it heard in utero, and he (like all of us) likes the feeling of comfort and calm coming from a friend.

Fetal personality

It is no secret that children are born with certain distinctive features of behavior that determine their temperament. But how and at what stage of fetal development are laid the features of fetal behavior - is the subject of in-depth research.

The first official study of fetal temperament was conducted by Di Pietro and his colleagues in 1996. They recorded the heartbeat and motor activity of the fetus 6 times, starting from the 31st week and before birth, and then compared with similar data after birth (more than 100 children were studied with the experiment). As a result, the following was discovered: children who were still active in the womb were more excitable after birth. Those who had an irregular sleep and wakefulness regimen inside the mother’s womb slept less and worse after birth.

“Behavior does not start from birth,” says Di Pietro, “it begins to take shape long before that and develops according to certain laws.” One of the most important factors influencing development is the living conditions surrounding the fetus. According to Alvs from Harvard, the fetus receives a huge amount of hormones from the mother, therefore, its chronobiological rhythms are affected by the cycles of sleep and wakefulness of the mother, her eating pattern, her movement.

Hormones produced by the mother under the influence of stress can also be important. Di Pietro discovered that the more the expectant mother is stressed, the more active the fetus is, and the more susceptible the baby is to irritants. “A working woman experiences the greatest amount of stress during pregnancy,” says Di Pietro, ““ Nowadays, women work almost until the very day of childbirth, despite the fact that the possible consequences have not yet been fully studied. This is customary in our culture, but I consider it unreasonable. ”

Als agrees that work can be enormous stress, but stresses that hormones during pregnancy help block stress in both the mother and the fetus. Individual reactions to stress also matter. “The pregnant woman who decided to work is different from the woman who decided not to work,” she explains.

She is also different from a woman who is forced to work. Studies by Di Pietro showed that the fetus of a low-income woman is neurobehaviourally - it is less active with a weaker heartbeat than the fetus of a middle-class woman. "In addition, a low-income woman is more stressed during work than a middle-class woman," she notes. Di Pietro suggests that unbalanced nutrition and environmental problems can also seriously affect fetal development in low-income women.

All stresses, diets and toxins combined can have a detrimental effect on mental development. Modern studies conducted by biostatistics, Ph.D. Bernie Davlin, at the University of Pittsburgh, have shown that genes may affect the mental development coefficient much less than previously thought, as well as the fact that fetal developmental conditions can have a significantly greater effect. “Our old ideas about the conditions affecting the fetus before birth and about feeding after birth require revision,” Di Pietro insists, “Antenatal developmental conditions are also determined by the mother.”

Future parents who want to help an unborn child mentally develop should begin by understanding that during the antenatal period of development the fetus must be provided with normal nutrition, not be stressed and isolated from drugs. Various authors and "experts" also advise regular stroking of the stomach, talking to him through a paper folded into a pipe - a pregnant phone, humming classical tunes, and even shining on your stomach.

The question is, does such stimulation have any effect? But most importantly, is it safe? Those who use such methods believe that their children become smarter, more sociable, are born with musical abilities, physically more developed and socially adapted compared to other children. Scientists, however, are skeptical.

“There is not a single protected scientific work in the world that would confirm any lasting effect of such stimulation,” says Fayler, “since no one can clearly say when the fetus is awake, stroking the abdomen or talking through the speaker can disrupt natural sleep . No one believes that such stroking or feeling, as well as applying various devices for speaking to the ear, are necessary for a newborn baby in the crib, so why do they need the fetus? ”

Als emphasizes even more: “I’m sure that touching, shaking and other special stimulation of the fetus can change the course of its development, and everything else that affects the development of the brain has a price.”

Gentle conversations with the fetus, however, are considered low-risk. Fyfer believes this kind of interaction with the fetus can help both the parents and the fetus. “By thinking about your fetus, talking with him, inviting your spouse to mingle with him, you help yourself prepare for the emergence of a new creature that will enter your life and turn it upside down,” he says, “and eventually cease to be something grandiose.

Janet L. Hopson

"Modern Psychology", October 1998

* Thanks to Tatyana Kamps for translating the article

The answer about the baby’s dreams in the womb

My answer is not quite my thoughts, opinions and assumptions, since your question was first asked by me mentally, addressed, so to say, to the energy information field of space, as a result of which such an answer was received - translated into a form for me to understand the meaning person (in this case in Russian), thereby I am as an intermediary, and not as a source of this information. From whom exactly this informational response was received, I did not try to find out, but I know that it comes from the highest intelligent beings. Believe it or not, this is everyone’s own discretion. And I will try to convey the meaning of the answer as accurately and clearly as possible for everyone.

The baby is in the womb for a longer time, the main one is sleeping. He is in a state of sleep and dreams. The source of his dreams is energy - informational energy impulses emanating from his mother. Thus, for example, a child can see in a dream how his mother looks externally (and some moments that happen to her, and those places in which she is or is located). After, when such dreams are already born, the child can forget, but always finds out his mother what he already saw in his dreams. As well as recognizes many places in which his mother visited or was at the time of pregnancy. Later this psychological process in a child can be effective practically all his life, being already in an adult, and called the deja vu effect.

But the child in the womb sees not only such dreams that are connected directly with his mother, he also has dreams of the world from where he came to his new birth, dreams from the past and previous life. Also, the child can see dreams, or rather, through this form - sleep, direct communication with his guardian angels and the spirits of his ancestors. - They already then, at that stage, help the baby to adapt better, preparing him in advance for the meeting of a new life, a new world in which he will soon appear, - this process is like learning, acquaintance with the unknown. Therefore, the child can dream when he is in the womb of such a nature as a variety of animals, birds, plants, other people, all his future relatives, and other household items that he will have to face with the birth of the light. This well prepares the baby's psyche, which afterwards will not allow him to experience bouts of shock and fright (if they are, then they are minimal and not significant), which in turn could harm the baby's health or even lead to death.

A similar phenomenon is also called deja vu, which can occur throughout the life of the newborn (although it remains from the visible dreams in the womb, usually about ten percent, in some cases more than half of what is seen, this is about the deja vu effect). Therefore, babies in their mother’s womb not only dream, but they are seen by more than an adult, or at least not less than him.

Well, something like that. Some details were omitted and not included, those moments that may not be understandable to a person (or to some extent moving on to another topic). Believe me, it’s very difficult to translate such things, even if you are swimming in this area like a fish in water.