What do newborn babies do in the womb? Active, Aware, and Amazing

What do newborn babies do in the womb? In the marvel of prenatal life, the developing fetus engages in a myriad of fascinating activities, often surprising expectant parents.

From the earliest stages of gestation, these tiny beings exhibit remarkable behaviors, shaping their journey toward birth. They move 50 times or more each hour, their movements intricate and purposeful.

Through this article, we delve into the captivating world of fetal activity, exploring how unborn babies flex, extend, and explore their surroundings, all within the protective confines of their watery sanctuary.

What do Newborn Babies Do in the Womb?

In the womb, newborn babies move actively, flexing and extending their bodies, as well as their heads, face, and limbs. They explore their environment through touch, experiencing the warmth and fluidity of their surroundings.

Fetal Growth and Development

Fetal development begins immediately after conception and progresses through several distinct stages as new cells multiply and differentiate to form complex organ systems.

Gestational AgeDevelopmental Milestones
First monthBones and muscles begin to grow enabling the fetus to make fists and facial expressions. Fingerprints form, and hair begins to grow.
2nd monthFacial features take shape, and limbs, buds, and organs like kidneys continue developing. The sex organs form, and the fetus is now termed male or female.
3rd monthA protective film called the vernix caseosa covers the delicate fetal skin. The fetus is highly active at this stage.
4th monthThe fetus sheds the vernix coating, and the lungs become fully mature in anticipation of breathing air.
5th monthBlink-startle reflex emerges. The fetus can recognize their mother’s voice and respond to light shining on the mother’s belly.
6th monthThe fetus develops a regular sleep-wake cycle and will suck their thumb for comfort.
7th monthFat stores develop in preparation for life outside the womb. The fetus takes position with its head down near the pelvic exit.
8th monthBones and muscles begin to grow, enabling the fetus to make fists and facial expressions. Fingerprints form, and hair begins to grow.
9th monthThe fetus sheds the vernix coating and their lungs become fully mature in anticipation of breathing air.

As evidenced by this timeline, the development from a single fertilized egg to a complex human being is truly astonishing.

By nine months, the fetus has gone from microscopic to measuring almost 20 inches and weighing 7-8 pounds, equipped with all the senses, reflexes and vital systems they need to survive in the outside world.

Behavioral Patterns of Newborns in the Womb

In addition to their incredible physical growth, fetuses display regular patterns of movement and behavior while in the womb.

Modern ultrasound technology has allowed doctors an unprecedented view into the secret life of newborns before birth.

Fetuses start exhibiting reflexive motions like tensing, flexing, and twitching of the trunk and limbs as early as week 7 or 8 of pregnancy. By week 9 they can stretch out their bodies, move their jaw and swallow amniotic fluid.

Fetal activity increases around week 12 as their growing muscles get stronger. The mom begins feeling these minuscule first movements, known as “quickening”, around weeks 16-20.

Fetal movement peaks around week 28 when cramped quarters lead to frequent jabs, rolls, and flip-flops.

The pattern becomes more cyclic later on, with sleep cycles interspersed with active wakeful periods characterized by kicking, shifting positions, and hiccupping.

Studies show that newborns have the same 90-minute REM and non-REM sleep cycles as they will outside the womb.

Notable Behaviors in the Womb

Some of the most fascinating fetal behaviors include reactions to outside stimuli, self-comforting habits and apparent communication or play.

By month 4, fetuses respond to loud sounds or mother’s voice with increased heartbeat and movement.

Later on in development, they react to external light and touch. Newborns even appear to exhibit learning by changing their responses to repeated exposure to stimuli.

Interestingly, babies seem to display self-directed behaviors like thumb sucking by week 27 to provide comfort and relaxation while in the womb.

The innate sucking reflex allows them to swallow hundreds of milliliters of amniotic fluid each day – excellent practice for eventual feeding. They may hiccup frequently due to still-developing digestive organs.

Remarkably, fetuses seem capable of some type of straightforward communication with their twin in utero through touch or sound vibrations.

When observed via ultrasound, twins appear to interact through techniques like reaching out and stroking the other twin.

Communication and Interaction in the Womb:

The fetus doesn’t just passively grow while wrapped in the womb. They actively participate and interact with their environment, responding to internal and external cues.

The primary way newborns interact is through movement since their senses of hearing and touch are still developing. However, studies reveal that newborns can hear muffled versions of sounds outside the abdominal wall as early as week 18.

From months 6-9, the fetus has an acute sense of hearing and reacts strongly to loud noises.

Fascinatingly, prenates even appear capable of auditory learning. When the same musical selection or story is played repeatedly, they eventually stop reacting – evidence they become familiar with and “memorize” the sounds.

Touch stimulation is another key interactive pathway in the womb. By week 15, the fetus responds to light stroking of the mother’s belly by moving toward the source.

Later on, they may actively reach out and touch the uterine wall. The fetus becomes familiar with their mother’s movements and touch patterns.

Fetal Development and Its Implications

The incredible sophistication of fetal growth and behavior has meaningful implications for several facets of pregnancy and newborn care.

Firstly, it underscores the significance of prenatal nutrition, exercise, and wellness for proper development.

The fetus relies entirely on the mother for nourishment and oxygenation, so maintaining a healthy pregnancy lifestyle promotes optimal growth.

Understanding developmental milestones also lets doctors identify abnormalities requiring early intervention after birth. Certain conditions diagnosed prenatally through ultrasound or genetic testing can even be treated before delivery in some cases.

In addition, knowledge of regular fetal sleep-wake cycles facilitates better care practices after birth, like minimizing disruption around usual sleep times.

Mimicking the uterine environment through techniques like swaddling helps soothe newborns adjusting to the outside world.

Above all, recognizing the humanity present even before birth should make us marvel at the miraculous process of pregnancy and spur us to do everything possible to support mother and child during this critical phase.

11 Things Unborn Babies Can Do in the Womb

What does a baby do in the womb all day?

Babies lead surprisingly active lives in the womb. They alternate between periods of movement and activity with periods of sleep and quiet stillness. Ultrasound scans have given us a glimpse into their daily routines.

In the morning, babies wake up and participate in a flurry of movement, kicking, wiggling around and interacting with their twin if present.

After an active period, they’ll settle in for a nap. Cycles repeat throughout the day at roughly 90-minute intervals. Babies that maintain regular in-utero sleep cycles tend to sleep better after birth.

During waking times, besides just moving around babies hiccup frequently, practice breathing motions, and swallow up to a liter of amniotic fluid per day – excellent preparation for when they’ll need to feed and breathe air independently.

They interact through touch if a twin is present and react to external stimuli like loud sounds.

Overall a fetus’s day consists of:

  • Long active periods of moving limbs, shifting position, kicking the uterine wall
  • Short concentrated rest periods of complete stillness
  • Cycles of REM and non-REM sleep lasting over an hour
  • Reacting to touches, sounds, and position changes of the mother
  • Swallowing large amounts of amniotic fluid for nourishment and practice

So while it may look like the baby is peacefully floating in the womb, they are in fact extremely active, performing movements and behaviors essential to their continued development.

What do babies enjoy in the womb?

It may seem like babies floating in amniotic fluid wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything actively – but modern technology reveals fascinating insights into what fetuses find pleasurable:

  • Tasting the amniotic fluid: fetuses swallow up to a liter per day of this fluid which is rich in proteins, carbohydrates and electrolytes. This indicates they likely derive some enjoyment from the taste.
  • Hearing their mother’s voice: babies react to external sounds as early as 18 weeks. Hearing mom frequently and responding to her voice seems to be soothing.
  • The motion of walking or rocking: when mom walks or swings her belly the gentle motion lulls babies into a peaceful, content state.
  • Soothing sounds like music: fetuses seem to “learn” and remember short melodies or stories played at the same time daily, indicating enjoyment.
  • Touch stimulation: babies appear to actively reach out and touch the uterine wall and enjoy stroking or massage applied to the mother’s abdomen.
  • Sucking fingers or thumbs: babies start displaying this self-soothing, pleasure-inducing behavior in the womb around week 27.
  • Interacting with their twin: twins appear to intentionally reach out and touch each other in affectionate ways, as observed on ultrasound.

So, while the womb may seem isolating and restrictive, babies still discover simple pleasures through sound, touch, taste, and motion.

These early experiences assist development and forge positive associations that will benefit them after birth.

Does the baby sleep in the womb when the mother is awake?

Remarkably, yes – fetal sleep cycles operate independently of the mother’s sleep-wake cycles. Babies alternate between 90-minute cycles of REM and non-REM sleep continuously throughout the day and night.

Newborns spend up to 16 hours a day in a sleep state even though their mom may be awake and active.

However, babies can be lulled into a deeper sleep by the rocking motion of walking. So even when mom is awake, her movements may promote better quality rest.

Later in pregnancy, when the fetus is more significant, and space is more confined, they may have difficulty getting comfortable enough to sleep deeply while moms are walking or sitting. But in general, fetal sleep is not dependent on the mother’s sleep stage.

This indicates that babies self-regulate their own internal cycle of rest and activity while in the womb.

Babies who maintain these regular in-utero cycles after birth tend to sleep more soundly. Mimicking the uterine environment promotes healthy newborn sleep patterns.

So, a mother’s activity level does not necessarily disturb her baby’s slumber. Whether she is running errands or sleeping soundly, the fetus maintains their own schedule of sleep and wake cycles while cocooned in the womb.

Do babies feel hungry in the womb?

Babies don’t experience true hunger in the womb since nutrition is provided continuously via the umbilical cord attaching them to their mothers.

However, they do swallow large amounts of amniotic fluid each day for developmental purposes.

Fetuses ingest up to a liter of amniotic fluid per day after about week 10 of pregnancy. This serves several key purposes:

  • Practicing sucking and swallowing in preparation for eating after birth
  • Providing hydration as the amniotic fluid contains electrolytes
  • Giving a small amount of nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, and fat
  • Circulating chemical cues to promote lung and digestive development
  • Regulating temperature through fetal urination

The large volume swallowed indicates babies likely derive some enjoyment or satisfaction from the taste of amniotic fluid.

But true hunger is mediated by complex interactions between hormones, brain signals, and nutritional status that fetuses haven’t yet experienced in the womb.

However, studies show that babies do react when their mother consumes or smells strong spices, garlic, or leafy greens by increasing movement and swallowing rate.

So, fetuses may experience a form of taste-triggered appetite for certain flavors while in the womb.


The intricate growth and behaviors of newborns in the womb are astonishing. From exhibiting self-directed behaviors like sucking their thumb to reacting to external stimuli to maintaining their sleep-wake cycles, fetuses actively participate in their development – far from just passively growing.

Understanding the capabilities and activities of newborns before birth allows us to support optimal prenatal care better and adjust postnatal care to ease the transition into the world.

The next time you see an expectant mother, remember the small but mighty person inside performing incredible feats of development each day while waiting to be born.

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