Parenting is a journey that really begins the moment you find out you are pregnant, so it’s never too early to start communicating and bonding with your baby.
Building that special relationship with your baby starts well before you even give birth! Forming a close, early bond can make a real difference to your baby’s wellbeing, your feelings as a parent and in creating a loving environment for when your baby arrives.
Nine whole months can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for your baby to be born, so it’s a good idea to use this time to bond with her even before she comes into the world. Communicating with your unborn baby not only helps to prepare you for motherhood, it’s also a great way of bonding with your baby; preparing her for what’s awaiting her.
Ultrasound has provided us with an opportunity to see exactly what is going inside the womb. From the first grainy image on a scan we can see how baby moves around and is both alert and active in her environment.
Ultrasound has also taught us that the growing baby can not only hear and see, but can also feel, taste, respond to stimulation, remember and learn – all before she has even popped her head out into the big, wide world!
The idea that a foetus is conscious of its surroundings is not a modern philosophy however. In fact, as far as back as 450BC the Greek philosopher Empedocles described how a baby could be affected – positively or negatively – by its mother’s general well-being. Aristotle also claimed that a baby was capable of experiences inside the womb.
During most of the twentieth century, however, scientists believed that the foetus was both deaf and dumb and could neither feel any pain, nor react to sounds or movement. Now, however, thanks to in-depth research, there is greater understanding of both the foetus and the senses, perception, communication and personality of babies – both newborn and unborn.
One Venezuelan clinical psychologist, Dr. Beatriz Manrique, studied the effect of pre and post-natal stimulation on babies and, according to her research, babies who were stimulated with touch and sound in the womb appeared to be more alert at birth, had better head control and were able to turn their heads in the direction of their parent’s voices.
Forming a healthy attachment to your unborn baby is something that can be achieved through the course of your normal day, using any of the following stimulating techniques:
Get talking to your baby
From around 35 weeks your baby’s hearing is as good as a newborn’s. She’ll be able to hear your voice clearly and will recognise your tone. It’s a great idea to sing, speak or hum to your baby in the womb.
Since babies can recognise the voices of their parents when they are born, it’s also a good idea to say good morning and good night to your baby every day. Chatting to your baby and sharing your feelings and thoughts with her can also help to make your growing tummy seem more real and more ‘human’.
Play music or sing to your bump
For some time now, many expectant parents have played classical music to their unborn babies as they believe it can have a very calming effect on them. Research has proven that babies actually begin hearing by the 18th week of pregnancy, so singing lullabies to your baby is a tradition you can start before they are born and continue once you have given birth.
Massage your pregnant belly
One effective way of introducing your baby to the outside world is by giving your bump a regular, gentle massage during your pregnancy. Where and when possible, simply massage and stroke your bump in a gentle, regular manner. This will make your baby much more receptive to touch after she is born. Babies will often respond to your touch by kicking the place you just massaged or by changing positions!
A womb with a view
Your baby can’t see in the womb, but she can certainly detect light. From around 28 weeks, shining a torch on your bump will force your baby to either shrink away or follow the light.
Stimulate those taste buds
Your unborn baby has two to three times as many taste buds as you. From around 22 weeks she’ll be able to distinguish the four basic tastes in amniotic fluid: bitter, sweet, salt and sour. And remember – the taste of amniotic fluid is influenced by what YOU eat! Your baby will prefer sweet amniotic fluid.
The sweet smell
From around the sixth month of your pregnancy your baby will be able to recognise the smell of amniotic fluid. Changes in your diet will be the closest your baby will get to noticing the change in smell.
A little R & R
During the last few weeks of your pregnancy it’s particularly important to relax and give yourself some calm downtime. While you’re doing this, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes every day to picture yourself with your new baby. Imagine what s/he will look like. Pre-natal yoga classes are particularly good at helping you to relax and visualise. Look for classes in your local area.
Use the power of ultrasound
The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of 3D and 4D scans available to expectant parents. There’s no doubt that being able to watch your baby moving around on the screen is a very practical way of bonding with bump and it’s an especially good means of giving fathers and grandparents the opportunity to see the baby and to form an attachment to it. Put your photos of the ultrasound in places around the house. Looking at them on a regular basis will make your baby seem so much more real even before it’s born.
Yes, at times pregnancy can seem never-ending, but take this time to enjoy bonding with your bump!