Maternal Language Shapes Infants’ Cry Melodies

The very first cry of neonates is marked by their maternal language. This seems to be especially apparent in tonal languages, where pitch and pitch fluctuation determine the meaning of words. Chinese and German scientists under the leadership of the University of Würzburg have demonstrated this phenomenon for the first time by with newborn babies from China and Cameroon.

Tonal languages sound rather strange to European ears: in contrast to German, French or English, their meaning is also determined by the pitch at which syllables or words are pronounced. A seemingly identical sound can mean completely different things – depending on whether it is pronounced with high pitch, low pitch or a specific pitch fluctuation.

Tonal languages in China and Africa

One example of such a tonal language is Mandarin. It is China’s official language that is spoken predominantly in China, Taiwan, and Singapore – by just over one billion people as of now. Four characteristic sounds must be mastered to speak this language. Things are much more complicated with Lamnso, the language of the Nso – a people estimated at 280,000 living mostly in high-altitude villages in the grasslands of Northwest Cameroon, where they practice agriculture. This complex tonal language possesses eight tones, some of which furthermore vary in their contour. This means that whoever wants to speak Lamnso perfectly should not only be able to hit the perfect tone but also to integrate specific pitch fluctuations in certain words.

Now if pregnant women speak such complex tonal languages: does it show in the crying of their newborn infants? This question has now been examined by scientists from different countries in a joint project. The results of their studies have been published in the latest issues of the journals Speech, Language and Hearing and Journal of Voice.

Like tonal languages, crying sounds like chanting

The result: “The crying of neonates whose mothers speak a tonal language is characterized by a significantly higher melodic variation as compared to – for example – German neonates”, says Professor Kathleen Wermke, Head of the Center for Pre-speech Development and Developmental Disorders at the University of Würzburg (Department of Orthodontics) and lead author of the two studies. The infants of the Nso in Cameroon exhibited not only a significantly higher “intra-utterance overall pitch variation” (the interval between the highest and the lowest tone); also, the short-term rise and fall of tones during a cry utterance was more intensive in comparison with the neonates of German-speaking mothers. “Their crying sounds more like chanting”, says Professor Wermke to describe this effect. The results were similar for neonates from Peking – but to a somewhat lesser degree.

Language right from the start

From the scientists’ point of view, these findings support a theory that they had already considered to be corroborated by comparisons between German and French neonates: “Building blocks for the development of the future language are acquired from the moment of birth, and not only when infants begin to babble, or to produce their first words”, says the scientist. Having had ample opportunity to become acquainted with their “mother language” in their mother’s womb during the last third of pregnancy, neonates exhibit in their crying characteristic melodic patterns influenced by their environment – precisely by the language spoken by their mother – and that even before they coo their first sounds or try out speech-like “syllabic babbling”.

Same results across cultural boundaries

At the same time, these findings highlight that neonates exhibit a high degree of cross-cultural universality in their crying. “We have examined in this case neonates from very different cultures”, says Kathleen Wermke. On the one hand, there are neonates from Peking, who developed surrounded by all influences of modern civilization – radio, television, smart phone. On the other hand, there are the children of the Nso, who were born in a rural environment where none of the technical achievements of modern times are to be found. “The fact that despite these cultural differences both tonal language groups exhibited similar effects in comparison with the non-tonal German group indicates that our interpretation of data points in the right direction”, explains the scientist.

With all due caution, these results could even suggest that genetic factors are involved in the process in addition to external factors. “Of course, it remains undisputed that neonates are able to learn any language spoken in the world, no matter how complex it is”, says Kathleen Wermke.

A basis for the early diagnosis of disorders

55 neonates from Peking and 21 from Cameroon have been examined by scientists in the course of their studies, and their cry utterances recorded during their first days of life. Of course, no baby was made to cry for the purpose of research. “We only recorded spontaneous utterances, normally when a baby started to fuss because it was hungry”, says Kathleen Wermke.

From the scientists’ point of view, the results of these studies contribute to a better understanding of essential influencing factors on the earliest phases of speech development than we have now. At the same time, they improve the possibility to identify early indicators that provide reliable information about any developmental disorders in this field at a very early stage. However, many questions remain to be clarified before these findings can be used in clinical practice.

Article: Fundamental frequency variation in crying of Mandarin and German neonates, Kathleen Wermke, Yufang Ruan, Yun Feng, Daniela Dobnig, Sophia Stephan, Peter Wermke, Li Ma, Hongyu Chang, Youyi Liu, Volker Hesse, Hua Shu, Journal of Voice, doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2016.06.009, published online7 July 2016.

Do Essential Oils Cross the Placenta?

AromaTools™ Blog

Our post today is from guest blogger Stephanie Pearson. Stephanie Pearson has worked with herbal medicine for over 25 years and is a clinical herbalist, functional nutritionist, and clinical aromatherapist master, in process. She created an e-course, Essential Oils for the Birth Kit, that is a comprehensive, evidence-based, and unbiased five-hour course on using essential oil therapy during each phase of pregnancy and in infant care. See below for the e-course preview video.

close up of pregnant woman touching her bare tummy

Do Essential Oils Cross the Placenta?

Despite the ever-growing body of research on essential oils, there is only a sippy cup full of study conducted on essential oil use during pregnancy––this owing to the unethical nature of conducting research on pregnant women.

The quick answer, though, is that yes, many essential oils do cross the placenta (and cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier), which is why it is especially important to be mindful of dose and quality during…

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Week of Wellness: Birth Kit Essentials

AromaTools™ Blog

During the Week of Wellness at AromaTools™, Stephanie Pearson came to teach a class on using essential oils during pregnancy and labor as well as using oils to help care for yourself and your baby afterward.

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Stephanie Pearson has worked with herbal medicine for over 25 years and is a clinical herbalist, functional nutritionist, and clinical aromatherapist master, in process. She created an e-course, Essential Oils for the Birth Kit, that is a comprehensive, evidence-based, and unbiased five-hour course on using essential oil therapy during each phase of pregnancy and in infant care.

General Safety Guidelines for Essential Oil Use During Pregnancy

“The most confusing part about using essential oils during pregnancy is trying to figure out what is safe to use and what isn’t,” Stephanie explains. One major issue is that it isn’t ethical to do research on pregnant women, so there just aren’t many studies on the subject. Because…

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Moon Salutation Yoga Series for Blessingway

At my blessingway with my new daughter Vivian, my mom led us through a moon salutation together outside and then we all entered the blessingway space via a “birth arch” made with the women’s arms (think London Bridge only all in a row making a channel of arms to pass through). This weekend, we had a women’s retreat with the theme of the sacred body and I found this moon salutation from the book She Who Changes for us to do together—seemed fitting that with a theme of the body, we should actually use our bodies!

Moon Salutation
I stand tall, heart open to the world, body full and present in all of its beauty.


I open my arms wide to bring all of life into my being.
(standing with arms in prayer position)

(opening arms and tracing the circle of the moon)

My arms form a temple above me, sheltering and protecting me.

I know that I am on holy ground.

(arms completing the circle extended with palms touching above the head)

Yielding now, softening, my body takes the shape of the crescent moon.

I see visions of women, young and old, helping and loving each other.

(bending to the side with arms still above the head and palms touching)

Rising up and bending to the other side, I know that my softness is my strength. I am tested, but not broken.

(bending to the other side)

Up again, I feel the sweet stillness, always present within me.

(arms above head, palms still touching)

I step wide now into a squat. Mother Earth’s ferocious powers rise up through my strong legs, hips and back. As a woman, I give birth to all that is, caring for and protecting life.

(arms bent in priestess pose, legs bent and open in birth pose)

Straightening arms and legs, I am a star. I am the universe. Planets and galaxies whirl within me. I radiate in all directions.

(legs straight and spread widely apart, arms straight out to the sides)

Supple and yielding, I stretch to the side. I open my arms and look up, opening to love and compassion.

I reach, yearning and striving, and yet rest, accepting fully.

(triangle pose)

Turning to pyramid pose, I become quiet. Head to knee, I sense the inner workings of my own being.

(typical runners’ stretch)

Lunging, I stretch long and feel the glorious length of my body.

As I look up, the moon shines on my path.

(lunge pose)

Turning now, I touch the earth, hands on the blessed Mother, strong and steady.

Gratefully and tenderly, I bow my head.

(turning and bending to touch the earth)

Coming into a squat, I am connected with all animal and plant life. My body open and close to the earth, I know my body’s ability to give birth, to love, to work, to pray. I resolve to hold all of these activities as sacred.

(full squat)

 

The Moon Salutation continues with the poses repeated in reverse order to form a complete circle and cycle of the moon with the whole body. The combination of words and yoga movement creates connections between the body and the mind, enabling the meaning of the words to come into the body. The full meaning of the Moon Salutation can be appreciated only in the doing. It celebrates the female body and the earth body, affirming that the female body is sacred, an image of the body of Goddess. It names the connection between women and the moon, positively affirming cycles of change, in contrast to classical theological traditions. In the Moon Salutation, women’s changing bodies and the process of giving birth become images of the divine creativity of the Goddess. The Moon Salutation celebrates strength as supple and yielding, yet ferocious in the protection of life. These are images of strength as power with, not power over. In the Moon Salutation, the female body is not perceived negatively as it is in traditions associating femininity with the “weaker” light of the moon. Still, it might be asked: Does the Moon Salutation limit women to the body or the traditional roles associated with it? I do not find this to be so. In the Moon Salutation the female body is an image of all the creative powers in the universe. It can expand to include planets and galaxies. The female body is celebrated not only for its capacity to give birth, but also for its ability to love, to work, and to pray.

From: Carol P. Christ. She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World, Kindle Edition.

Nail Care

Your fingernails are subjected to daily assault. Detergents, fingernail polish, glue for artificial fingernails, formaldehyde-based nail hardeners, and household chemicals are just a few of the attackers. You can protect your nails by wearing gloves while washing dishes or hand-washing clothes, and by avoiding contact with gasoline, paint, and other harsh chemicals. Nail polish, lacquers and especially nail polish remover are very drying to nails, often causing them to crack and split. If you use these products, choose formulas without formaldehyde and add half a teaspoon of castor oil to every ounce of an acetone polish remover to moisturize nails and surrounding skin.

Brittle nails that crack easily indicate possible dietary problems. Healthy nails need a sufficient amount of calcium, magnesium, protein and silica. Drinking a tea made of equal parts oat straw, nettle, and horsetail or taking capsules or tinctures of these herbs daily can improve your nails from the inside out since these herbs are high in silica and other minerals important for nail growth. Supplements of GLA in the form of evening primrose, borage or black currant seed oil also help.

How else can you achieve beautiful fingernails?  Soaking them in herbal teas or oils of comfrey, oat straw and horsetail strengthens nails and cuticles, the thickened skin at the base of your fingernails. For fungal problems, first, soak your nails in the Antifungal Vinegar, then follow by rubbing in the Nail Soak Oil.

Antifungal Vinegar

4 ounces vinegar {for extra strength, use oregano vinegar}

2 tablespoons tincture pau d `arco

1/4 teaspoon each tea tree and lavender essential oils

1/8 teaspoon peppermint essential oil

Combine ingredients. Apply a few times daily with cotton balls or swabs or use a compress soaked in vinegar to cover a large area. I use oregano vinegar. You can make this yourself or buy a culinary oregano vinegar.

Nail Soak Oil

2 tablespoons jojoba oil

4 drops each lavender and sandalwood essential oils

Combine ingredients. Soak nails in the mixture for 10 minutes. Buff nails to stimulate circulation and bring out a healthy shine.

 

 

Perspiration

Almost all store-bought deodorants are laced with questionable ingredients and loaded with synthetic fragrances. Antiperspirants can also be bad because they actually block sweat glands, this may be asking for trouble since the underarm area is especially sensitive and is susceptible to irritation and rashes. Once an antiperspirant wears off, underarm sweat glands produce more perspiration to compensate.

There is an alternative. Sweat is odorless until it comes into contact with airborne bacteria. Antibacterial herbs such as chamomile and coriander inhibit the growth of underarm bacteria and solve the problem naturally. If you do not perspire much, you may find that a simple aromatic powder will do. Arrowroot, cornstarch or white clay are good bases for powder.

Natural Deodorant

2 ounces witch hazel

5 drops each sage, coriander, and lavender essential oils

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before every application.

Natural Body Powder

1/2 cup cornstarch

5 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops ylang-ylang essential oil

Add essential oils to cornstarch. Put through a sieve and mix well. Let sit a few days to incorporate scents into the powder.

 

 

Vodka Is the Secret to This Powerful DIY Deodorant

It’s a sad truth—sometimes you don’t realize you forgot to put on deodorant until after you’ve already started sweating. Swiping a solid stick over that swampy mess isn’t ideal, especially since it’s likely bacteria has already started stewing.

The solution? Reach for a spray. Our easy DIY deodorant will keep you cool and dry, with no need to worry about aerosol cans or chemicals. No T-shirt–staining aluminum, butane, artificial fragrances, or toxic alcohols either.

But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. This is a super-simple, incredibly effective formula. Since sweat contains some lipids and proteins that feed the bacteria on your skin—the process that leads to funky odors—antifungal and antibacterial tea tree oil is added to keep the underarm area clean. Lavender contributes more antiseptic power, plus it softly dilutes the strong scent of tea tree.

The third ingredient is a surprising one, but it’s important for harnessing the properties of the oils: high-proof vodka. We know from chemistry class that oil and water don’t mix. A tiny bit of alcohol acts as an emulsifier—and the stronger it is the better the oil dissolution. (So, better break out the hard stuff.) This solution will help to evenly distribute the oil throughout the mixture once water is added. (While diffusing essential oils with water works fine in many cases, for bacteria- and odor-fighting, getting the maximum power out of the oils is best.)

Ready to try this super easy DIY deodorant spray?

TEA TREE LAVENDER DEODORANT SPRAY

Ingredients
½ ounce high-proof vodka
16 drops lavender oil
24 drops tea tree oil
3 ounces water

Directions
Pour vodka into a glass spray bottle. Drop in essential oils and swish the mixture well. Just add water, shake well, and spray!

Relaxation Techniques: When Can They Be Used?

Everyone experiences stress in one form or another, but the way that it affects each person differs. Some people may need to reduce their stress, and relaxation techniques are one option for doing this.

In stressful episodes, the nervous system is forced into a “fight or flight” response. This response triggers the release of certain chemicals within the body, including adrenaline, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.

During this release of chemicals, the body is immediately affected by many physical symptoms. These symptoms include an elevated heart rate, increased respiratory rate, blood vessel narrowing, and muscle tightening. The long-term presence of stress can weaken the body.

Using relaxation techniques to reduce the physical response to stress may aid in producing the “relaxation response.” During this period of deep relaxation, the body can experience the following:

  • A fall in heart and breathing rates
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved energy and focus
  • Pain relief and healing

When are relaxation techniques used?

As everyone experiences stress differently and with varied symptoms, finding the relaxation method that works for the individual is important.

People should be sure to find what works for them so that they can stick to a relaxation program with ease. It is important to be able to add relaxation into a daily routine to keep stress levels under control.

Relaxation techniques can be used in a variety of stressful conditions such as:

A woman is meditating in a park.
Relaxation techniques can easily be made part of a daily routine.
  • Anxiety linked to illnesses or medical procedures
  • Insomnia
  • Labor pain
  • Nausea caused by chemotherapy
  • Jaw problems
  • Pain

There are certain conditions for which relaxation techniques may prove helpful. These conditions include:

  • Childbirth: Guided imagery, self-hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing techniques may help with reducing the pain experienced during labor.
  • Depression: Relaxation techniques have not been proven to be as helpful as behavioral cognitive therapy in treating depression. However, studies report that people with depression who use relaxation techniques experience more symptom relief compared with people receiving no treatment.
  • Heart disease: The use of relaxation techniques has proven to have short-term benefits in people with high blood pressure.
  • Insomnia: People with long-term insomnia may benefit from practicing relaxation techniques, coupled with proper sleep hygiene and other sleep-related strategies.
  • Nausea: For those undergoing cancer chemotherapy and using antinausea medications, some relaxation techniques like guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation may offer symptom relief.

Anxiety and relaxation techniques

A reduction in anxiety related to health problems or medical procedures can be attributed to the use of relaxation techniques. However, researchers have yet to prove that people with generalized anxiety disorder benefit from the use of relaxation techniques.

Older adults with anxiety do benefit from relaxation techniques. Again, though, research shows that in this group, the long-term effects of anxiety reduction are best in those who receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

We spoke with Board Certified Art Therapist and Mental Health Counselor, Deb Smith, about the use of relaxation techniques in treating general anxiety disorder.

“For those suffering with general anxiety disorder, the use of relaxation techniques coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy may prove beneficial. At times, patients may require the use of anti-anxiety medications, which can be prescribed by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and general practice physicians.”

Deb Smith

Examples of relaxation techniques

There are a variety of relaxation techniques which can be used for certain medical problems or health issues. Examples include the following:

Two people are running in a gym.
Physical activities such as working out or sports can provide relaxation.
  • Autogenic training: This method of relaxation focuses on concentrating on physical body sensations, including warmth, heaviness, and relaxation throughout the whole body.
  • Biofeedback-assisted relaxation: Relaxation is taught by using electronic devices to provide body function measurements.
  • Deep breathing or breathing exercises: This method of relaxation focuses on deep, slow, even breaths that can be used alone or in combination with other techniques.
  • Guided imagery: Also referred to as visualization. Guided imagery focuses on replacing negative feelings with positive, pleasant images, touches, smells, tastes, and sounds.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This method of relaxation requires the ordered tensing and release of muscle groups. It may be used in combination with other methods of relaxation.
  • Self-hypnosis: During self-hypnosis, relaxation is enabled through a state of focused attention.
  • Rhythmic movement: Mindful physical activity, such as running, swimming, or dancing leads to a relaxation response by the person both engaging in their activity and being fully present in the moment.
  • Body scan meditation: This relaxation technique requires paying close attention to and focusing on the sensations felt in various parts of the body.
  • Mindful meditation: During mindful meditation, people are encouraged to be in the present, which can be achieved through daily activities such as meditating, eating, or walking.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi: While yoga uses a series of movements and poses, Tai Chi uses rhythmic, flowing body movements. Both are used as relaxation methods.
  • Massage therapy: Massage therapy, either through self-massage or with a massage therapist, can relieve stress, pain, and muscle tension.

Benefits of using relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques offer many benefits, such as:

  • Lower heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing rate
  • Reduced stress hormones
  • Raised blood flow in major muscles
  • Relief of muscle tension and pain
  • Improved mood, concentration, and confidence
  • Reduced tiredness, anger, and frustration

Considerations for using relaxation techniques

For most healthy people, there are no risks involved with using relaxation techniques.

Increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or fear of losing control have been reported. Additional concerns include the possible worsening of symptoms linked with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy and certain psychiatric conditions.

People should speak with their healthcare provider before starting any program for relaxation, especially those with heart disease.

Helpful tips

Below are some helpful tips to aid in practicing relaxation techniques:

  • Schedule daily practice
  • Practice mindfulness with exercise
  • Avoid practicing relaxation techniques when tired
  • Don’t be discouraged during the process