When I talk to people about bonding with their babies before they are born, I find I can get quite mixed reactions. To some it comes completely naturally to talk or sing to their bump, engage in ‘touch games’ when movement can be felt, or spend time simply focussing on their bump in an almost meditative way. For others the process can feel quite staged or unnatural, as though they are talking with nobody there to hear, or overthinking WHAT to say in the first place. If you fall into the latter camp, don’t worry – there are ways you can slowly start to incorporate time bonding with your baby with ease, but perhaps you’re wondering WHY it’s important to push through that initial discomfort when you could just mill through the pregnancy knowing you can bond once baby is in your arms?
Research shows us that time spent bonding with your unborn baby can improve your birth experience both emotionally and physically. Mothers who have spent time connecting with their bumps generally have lower stress levels, and are more able to engage with their baby during labour allowing the hormones needed to facilitate labour to flow more easily, resulting in a faster, easier and less painful birth. We also know that the hormones mothers and babies experience during pregnancy affect the development of the baby, the way his brain begins to wire. The great Michel Odent covers in great detail the ripple effect that early hormonal balance can have in his book Primal Health – why not give yourselves the most optimal start by using your 9(ish!) months of pregnancy to connect, relax and begin the transition to motherhood?
There are so many ways you could bond with your unborn baby, and you may already be doing it without even realising. They are sensitive to your touch, your voice, your emotions and your reactions to the outside world. If it doesn’t feel natural to make time to focus on your bump perhaps one or more of the following might be enjoyable to try… and like everything, it gets easier with time and practice – soon you won’t even think twice about it! Try choosing quiet times and places to start with where you feel less open to judgement, for example singing to baby in the car on your drive to work will probably feel more comfortable than doing it around other people initially.
Massage / touch responsive games – one of my favourite things to do when pregnant with Florence was to play ‘touch games’ – giving her a nudge and seeing if she responded, or returning a poke when she kicked me. Sometimes this game would seem really interactive with the amount of taps, or strength of movement varying we played. Massage is another brilliant way to use touch to bond. Gentle, loving, strokes around your belly, feeling your baby move within and both of you enjoying an oxytocin boost.
Read / sing / talk to your baby – they really don’t care about what you’re saying, but some people struggle to just chat to their bumps. If you find that’s the case you could try reading your favourite novel, todays paper, or a childhood book you hope they’ll someday enjoy at bedtime -just the sound of your voice is enough to benefit them as they begin to learn about the world they’ll be born in to… studies have shown that babies begin to pick up the foundations for their native language long before they are born, and that babies can recognise familiar passages from books they were read in utero after they have been born! They are also not fussy with music – stick your favourites on and sing and dance, they have their whole lives ahead of them to find their own tastes!
Yoga / meditation – taking time to focus on your body, your breathing and your baby is such a positive thing to do during pregnancy. Slowing your mind and allowing yourself to focus on your bump can rapidly increase the bond you feel, and allow you to learn about your baby – perhaps noticing their favourite position to lay in, or their natural rhythm of movements throughout the day. A class can be a great starting point as you’ll be guided through a safe routine, and be able to enjoy some relaxation time before leaving.
Writing in a pregnancy diary – I confess, I did this religiously the first time, and didn’t even buy a book for my poor secondborn!! However jotting down a few things each week or day about how I was feeling, any antenatal appointments we had been to, baby’s movements etc was a great way to make time to notice and appreciate those things, connecting us further. With Lenny I found myself reflecting back on the book occasionally again giving me time to notice, compare and enjoy the different aspects of growing a baby.
Affirmations – naturally! We know the power of affirmations is huge, and choosing ones which embody the connection between you and your baby will have a wonderful impact on connecting you to one another. ‘My body and my baby are growing together’. ‘Every breath is a chance to relax and connect’. ‘I am already a mother’….
Rest together – naps can be a great opportunity to wind down, get some energy and notice your baby. Paired with our brilliant MP3’s you’re onto a total winner in terms of bonding with your baby, and prepping for a positive birth!
Try some things out and see what works for you, enjoy your bump as all too soon the are gone, and that special intimate part of your mothering journey makes way for the next stage.
Do It Like A Mother provide hypnobirthing courses and pregnancy relaxation groups in Southend and Upminster. I am back offering private courses in the Southend area as of May, at the special rate of £275 whilst Lenny joins us. We also run an online Motherhood Mindset mentoring programme.