I recently treated myself to something called a 'Bola Ball'... I first heard of them years ago from a friend, but had forgotten until recently.
A bola ball (or harmony ball), from Bali and Indonesia, is a silver chime worn by the mother during her pregnancy. The chain hangs very low, just around or below the belly button. The chimes are very delicate and gentle, providing a calming sound to her unborn baby as the mother goes about her day. One the baby is born the mother shortens the chain, to allow her baby to play with the necklace as it feeds or simply make the transition from the womb to the outside world as gentle and familiar as possible. It is said in Mayan culture that the chime protects the mother, and then the baby too after birth by 'calling the angels' to it. Mothers have also said the chimes remind them of their unborn baby as they go about their busy day.
It has been known for some time that babies can hear in the womb. In our Daisy Baby class we explore the benefits of white noise - for a newborn, going from the constant soothing sounds within your body to the outside world can be stressful. White noise can be used to calm and soothe them, from the mother's gentle 'shh shh' to white noise apps on the phone that play the sound of rain or waves on the beach.
Babies can also recognise music they heard in the womb - there was a study done in the 1980s that showed a mother who frequently watched a soap opera had a baby who responded to the theme tune once born. More recent studies such as this one and this one give compelling evidence to prove that babies can distinguish between sounds and remember them, measured by monitoring the baby's brain activity. Babies do actually remember sounds from the third trimester of pregnancy and those same sounds can calm them after birth too. This has led people to recommend both parents talking directly to their baby before they are born, as well as exposing them to stories and songs as all these things can be beneficial after birth.
Although some might say the tinkling of the chimes is possibly too gentle, it's a lovely experiment and one that can't hurt. A newborn at the breast may be reassured by the familiar sound of the chimes, and it would be a lovely gift for a mother-to-be.