For many mothers, bonding with their baby happens as soon as they lay eyes on that sweet little face. With the birth hormones and maternal instincts kicking in, it can often feel natural for many women to grow attached to their newborn child. However, bonding with the baby while they’re still in the womb doesn’t always come as easy.
Although it might sound like a strange concept to some, it is possible to bond and connect with your baby before they’re born. In fact, this type of bonding is even encouraged since it’s part of a healthy start to the mother/baby relationship. In order to connect with your baby while pregnant, you first have to understand why developing this attachment is so important.
Why is bonding with your baby during pregnancy important?
Parents-to-be spend a lot of time preparing for birth and everything that comes after. But did you know that your relationship with your little one starts before they’re even born? The way that you love, care for, and meet the needs of your baby before and after birth affects their development in a major way. Everything you do has an effect on your baby, which means you can lay a strong foundation for your relationship throughout your pregnancy.
Believe it or not, your baby is already getting to know you and your family before they’re even born. Being intentional about connecting with them during the time you have together in pregnancy helps you establish a strong relationship and build a healthy attachment to them.
What do babies experience in the womb?
During the gestation period, your baby can experience a lot more than you may think. Understanding what they see, hear, and feel during pregnancy helps you understand how to connect with them.
In the womb, a baby’s eyes start to develop the parts needed for sight at around 7 weeks and become fully developed shortly after. Although there isn’t much for babies to see before birth, their sight is developed by late pregnancy. During the third trimester, there is some light that may show through the uterine wall and amniotic fluid. Studies have shown that babies in the womb move around and respond to bright lights during this stage.
Interestingly enough, new research has shown that babies begin learning language even before they’re born. At 30 weeks of gestation, their hearing mechanisms are developed, and they are actively listening to their mother’s voice. Some studies have shown they’re able to hear sounds as early as 20 weeks. What’s even more incredible is that shortly after their birth, babies can tell the difference between their native language and a foreign language.
Touch is the first sense your baby develops while in the womb. This process starts with the baby’s face and continues to develop in the rest of their body as the weeks go by. Babies start making movements in the womb at around 7 weeks, but mothers don’t typically feel those movements until about 16 weeks. In early pregnancy, babies tend to turn away when something touches them, but in late pregnancy, they tend to move towards the stimuli. By the middle of the third trimester, they can feel all kinds of sensations.
How to connect with your unborn baby
There are various ways to connect with your baby while you’re pregnant. If this doesn’t come naturally or your maternal instinct hasn’t kicked in yet, that’s okay. Here are 10 ways to help you develop a connection with your child during pregnancy:
- Talk to your baby. Simply letting your child hear you and get used to the sound of your voice is a great way to connect with them. Since your baby starts to hear sounds around 20 weeks, they may begin responding to the sound of your voice. If you’re not sure what to say, begin by talking to your little one about the hopes and dreams you have for them. Even just narrating what you’re doing can strengthen the bond between the two of you.
- Play music. Music is a great way to soothe your baby and help prepare them for the world outside. One way to bond with your child is to listen to music together. Associating a specific song or album with your time together can help you develop feelings of attachment that will carry over into the postpartum period. Since babies can start to recognize and remember sounds during late pregnancy, if you play a certain song or album repeatedly during the third trimester, your little one will likely respond to it after they’re born.
- Sing to your baby. Your baby already loves the sound of your voice and the music you play to them. Why not combine them? Singing a special song, whether it’s a song you know or one you wrote, will comfort your baby and help comfort you as well during this transition period.
- Use their name frequently. Your baby will start to recognize the sound of their own name if you use it frequently, and this can be another way to strengthen the bond between you. If you haven’t picked out a name yet, don’t panic. Many parents don’t decide on a name until later, and that’s perfectly okay. If you haven’t picked a name, you could choose a nickname that your little one can start to recognize.
- Stay active. Since your baby travels everywhere with you, another way to bond with them is through exercise. Something as simple as taking a walk or a pregnancy yoga class can be a good way to strengthen your relationship and attachment. Your own physical condition during pregnancy affects your baby’s development, and physical activity can help improve your overall health. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about physical activity with your doctor.
- Rub your belly. One of the ways many pregnant women start to feel like the experience is real is when they begin to feel those incredible (and sometimes jarring) baby kicks. What starts with little flutters inside your belly turns into kicks so strong you wonder if you’re giving birth to the next Karate Kid. These kicks are a reminder of what’s to come and can help you feel ready and more excited to finally meet your little one. Rubbing your belly is one way to encourage your baby to move around and will help incite more of those wonderful kicks.
- Keep track of the memories. One of the reasons it can be difficult for mothers to connect with their baby before birth is that they can’t see their child yet or hold them in their arms. Creating memories you can look back on as a family, such as a baby book or a pregnancy journal, can help you feel more excited about what’s to come and more attached to your little one.
- Relax. Your well-being affects your baby’s as well, so it’s important for your relationship that you take time to simply enjoy the baby growing inside of you and relax. Stress and anxiety can produce hormones in your body that negatively impact your baby’s development. Be sure to discuss any concerns about your mental health with your doctor, and reach out to your support group if you’re struggling emotionally during pregnancy. If you’re looking for ways to relax during pregnancy, check out this article.
- Encourage the whole family to get involved. Bonding with the baby before birth can be even more difficult for dads and sometimes siblings since they don’t experience the baby kicks as frequently and may not feel as close to your little one yet. Encourage bonding time between your partner and any siblings and the baby as well. Have them spend time talking, singing, and feeling the baby kicks to build a connection between them and your new family member.
- Be patient with yourself. If you don’t feel connected to your little one even after trying your best, be patient with yourself. There’s no reason to feel guilty or beat yourself up if you’re struggling with this relationship. Remember that you are building a foundation for your relationship with your child. Some of the results may not be evident until later. You are doing the best you can, and your little one already loves you so much.