As your baby grows throughout your pregnancy, there are a number of ways to start bonding with them well before birth. For some mamas, the thought of bonding with their bump may come naturally. But for some others, pregnancy can feel pretty abstract, especially before you start to see the bump and feel the kicks.
Whatever the case may be, intentionally bonding with your baby in the womb is important and can even be a wonderful part of your pregnancy. The attachment theory, which was first introduced in the 1960s, promotes the bond between mothers and babies during the postpartum period and beyond. Attachment theory talks about the benefits to baby and mamas’ mental and emotional health, confidence, and success in life when there is a secure attachment in place.
But it wasn’t until more recently that researchers started to discover how much of that attachment starts before birth. Prenatal attachment is typically measured by researchers under six categories:
- Differentiation of self from unborn baby
- Interaction with the unborn baby
- Attributing characteristics to the unborn baby
- Giving of self
Keeping these parameters in mind can be a helpful way to find ways to bond with your baby during pregnancy.
The Benefits of Prenatal Bonding
For mothers, intentionally bonding with their babies during pregnancy, and a secure sense of attachment to their unborn babies leads to decreased risk of postpartum mood disorders, and a greater likelihood of positive health practices during pregnancy. A strong sense of prenatal attachment is also associated with an easier transition into motherhood and more sensitivity in mothers to respond to their infant’s cues and stress.
Before babies are born, every one of their sensory systems is fully functioning. This means that your baby has the ability to hear you, feel your touch, smell, taste, and even see by the time they reach 40 weeks. We know that babies can recognize their mother’s voices and even their scent after they are born. Research has shown that unborn babies can respond and maintain attention to voices and sounds while in the womb which leads to their ability to recognize your voice and often your partner’s and other loved ones after birth.
The sense of touch is perhaps the strongest for your baby as they grow in your belly. Maternal touch is shown to be one of the most powerful stimuli for baby in utero, more powerful than voice. Babies often respond to their mother’s touch by moving themselves. More recent research tells us that they may be responding to touch far earlier than initially thought, perhaps as early as 9 weeks!
With all of this in mind, it’s becoming more and more clear that a secure attachment between mama and baby starts well before birth. Your baby’s sense of self and attachment begins developing during pregnancy. You may innately begin this bonding process to promote a healthy and secure attachment with your little one, and with some of the bonding ideas discussed in this section you can help it along more intentionally, too.
9 Important Ways to Create a Bond With Your Baby Before Birth
Now that we’ve covered the importance of bonding with your baby during pregnancy, let’s discuss some of the best ways you can do this!
1. Read, Talk and Sing to Your Baby
Babies in the womb have an established sense of hearing by 24-27 weeks. Which means that auditory learning can begin this early in pregnancy! The benefits of structured auditory exposure in the womb are becoming more and more clear. Not only does your baby benefits from language exposure, but singing to your baby and playing music for them supports auditory processing development and may decrease their risk for dyslexia.
We know that babies are absorbing language in the womb because research has shown that they can differentiate between their mother’s native tongue and foreign languages just hours after birth. Babies in the womb are becoming familiar with the mother’s voice and the patterns and sounds associated with her native tongue. This all sets the stage for language development well before birth.
For these reasons, activities like reading, talking, and singing to your bump have an educational benefit for your baby and help you feel more bonded and attached. By engaging in these activities, it helps you connect with your growing baby and the research tells us they are actively listening and absorbing the interactions.
Some mamas like to choose one particular song they sing to their baby, or repeatedly read the same book. Once baby is born, they may recognize the book or feel soothed by the song they’re heard regularly for the past 9 months. I sang Skinamarinkydink to my oldest all the time when I was pregnant and I sang it to him right after birth, too. I will never forget the look of recognition in his eyes. It was such a beautiful moment!
And — get your partner in on the action, too! This is a great way for them to bond with baby before birth, which can sometimes be difficult for the parent not carrying the baby.
2. Hold and Rub Your Growing Bump
The sense of touch is another powerful way to bond with your growing bump and for them to bond back to you. We know this because when mamas in their third trimester touch and rub their bellies, babies become more active in the womb, often kicking and punching back and in response to our touching. This helps your baby prepare for life outside the womb.
What’s more, rubbing and holding your bump and reveling in those sweet baby movements and kicks helps you visualize this little human that will soon join your family, strengthening your bond and attachment.
3. Respond to Your Baby’s Kicks
Believe it or not, you may actually be able to play with your baby before they’re born. When you baby is kicking in a particular place, you can respond to their kicks and let them feel your touch. Sometimes you can get the game started by poking and prodding at different areas of your belly and wait for their response. This is a fun way to feel a connection and bond to your baby.
4. Use Your Baby’s Name Once You’ve Chosen It
Remember in the beginning we talked about the six ways researchers are able to measure attachment? Using your baby’s name and gender pronoun (if you’ve decided to find out!) is a great way to start attributing characteristics to the baby and differentiate it from your own sense of self. Starting to use their name allows you to imagine life with your baby in it, as their own person.
What’s more, as you start using their name and pronoun, you may start to talk about their personality and feelings separate from your own. For example, ____ is feeling really excited today, ____ is loving this music or ____ is going to be a soccer player based on this kicking.
If you haven’t chosen a name or found out the gender, you can still put this form of bonding into practice by referring to them as ‘baby’ like a name instead of “the baby” which has a more impersonal, or object connotation.
5. Nesting! Prepare Your Home for Baby
One big way to help bond with your baby before they’re born is by preparing your environment. You know, nesting! Nesting can take on different forms for different mamas. Sometimes, it manifests as an intrinsic need to have everything clean and organized. Other times, it might involve an activity of preparation for your baby, like making a blanket or knitting a hat.
If you aren’t feeling an explicit desire to nest, doing things like setting up the nursery and organizing any baby clothes and baby gear you’ve acquired will help you bond with baby. The visual of seeing baby things set up in your home helps you mentally prepare for their arrival.
(And if you need help, grab a copy of my ebook, The Baby Registry Handbook.)
To take it a step further, you can do things like organize other areas of your home for an easier transition to life with a baby. You might also like to stock your freezer with healthy meals to reheat during the postpartum period. Anything you can do now to prepare for when baby is here will help you mentally bond and feel at ease.
6. Write Letters to Your Baby During Pregnancy
Taking the time to write letters to your baby throughout your pregnancy is a wonderful way to bond with your growing bump. It also provides a keepsake of this special time that baby is growing in your womb, and is something you might give to them as a gift someday, perhaps when they have children of their own.
You can write a letter to your growing baby at any time during your pregnancy, or at special milestones. For example, you might write a letter after your first ultrasound, when you find out the gender, when you first feel them kick, or as birth approaches.
Not sure what to say? Share with your baby about what’s going on in your life, feelings you’re having, and things you’re excited for. Don’t hesitate to write some of the challenges you’re facing, too.
7. Make Something Special for Your Baby
Taking the time to tap into your creative side and make something for your baby is a great way to bond with your growing bump. There are lots of ways to create something for your baby based on your interests and abilities. Or, you can use this as a time to learn a new skill or hobby that helps you make something for your baby.
Some ideas to help you brainstorm a project for your little one:
- Knit or crochet a hat, blanket or booties
- Sew a quilt, lovey, or hat
- Make a mobile
- Refinish a piece of furniture for their room
- Create a piece of digital art to hang in their room
- Write them a song, poem, or bedtime story
- Decorate a picture frame for their room
- Paint a canvas for their room
- Make a decoration for the nursery
- Create a family photo collage or family photo book to welcome them into the world
- Design a special outfit for them to wear home from the hospital
If you aren’t the DIY type (my work is more like the after photo in a Pinterest fail), you can also bond by selecting special items for your baby. One of my favorite memories was buying a tiny little blue and white striped pajama set right after we found out we were having a boy. Every time I was feeling down or stressed, I would go into the second bedroom (which was eventually going to be the nursery) and look at and hold the little outfit. You don’t have to hand make something for it to be considered special or meaningful.
8. Take Time to Relax and be Present
In this go-go-go world, it can be easy to get caught up in the stresses and demands of life. Simply carving out some time each day to relax and be present with your baby bump can really help you develop a bond. This might be in the form of a relaxing bath, on the yoga mat, or for a few minutes while you lie in bed at night.
9. Take Pictures of Your Growing Bump
Documenting weekly or monthly photos can be a fun way to track your progress and visualize the amazing growth of your tiny human. Looking back at the incredible changes your body has endured to nurture a healthy baby is an incredible experience.
If taking regular photos isn’t for you, I encourage you to at least take a few photos throughout your pregnancy. While you may not think you look your best, I can assure you that you are glowing. Pregnancy is beautiful and photographs of this time will promote your bond with baby and are a wonderful keepsake.
Bond With Your Baby How it Feels Right to You, Mama
Here we looked at the research on why bonding with your baby during pregnancy is worthwhile and important. And more than that, it’s fun to feel a connection with that tiny human! But remember, these are suggestions to get you started. There’s no right or wrong way to bond with that baby, mama.
And there’s certainly no reason to lay on the mom guilt during pregnancy if you can’t or don’t want to do all of these things. Pick the ones that feel right for you and enjoy creating your own unique bond. I personally focused on singing and talking to my baby most out of all of these suggestions. Do what feels natural.
And always remember, there will never be another relationship like the one between you and your baby.
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