According to Diana Lynn Barnes, PsyD, of The Center for Postpartum Health in Sherman Oaks, California, “What the child in utero feels and perceives even before birth begins to shape later expectations and attitudes about himself.” No pressure, right?! While no pregnancy (or mother) is perfect, it is important to give your baby a positive prenatal experience. He can sense your emotions to some extent, and he will experience hormonal changes resulting from the stress or happiness you feel. Bonding exercises such as yoga, meditation and others can aid you in what Barnes calls your “psychological gestation” and help you connect with your bun in the oven.
Hear me out
Even amid the din of amniotic white noise, baby is learning your voice—the cadence of it, the tonal reverberations. After birth, he will be comfortable with your native language above any other because the rhythm of it will be familiar, and he’ll favor his mother’s voice.
During pregnancy, baby will be comforted by your voice as long as it reaches him in positive, peaceful notes. You may choose to speak directly to him, but even if you don’t, he’ll be listening.
Baby will learn to distinguish other voices too, although they’ll sound more muffled than yours. The voices he hears most often (likely his dad’s or siblings’) will become familiar and recognizable to him.
You move me
Join a prenatal yoga class—or pick up a home video—and get physical with your baby! Yoga can increase awareness of your body and the changes it’s going through. You’ll bring baby along for the ride, but you’ll also feel how your body and your baby’s are working in harmony right now, not entirely as one, but not separate either.
Yoga will help you maintain strength and flexibility, and release anxiety. The serene environment will benefit your baby’s mood, and you’ll likely feel more optimistic about the physical experience of pregnancy. Warm fuzzies all around!
And if yoga’s not your thing? Not to worry. Swimming and walking are also great options for calming, strengthening prenatal exercise.
Time to read
While school is still a long way off, it’s not too early to hit the books. Studies have shown that a book read repeatedly to baby in the womb will be comforting to him after birth. Start a family ritual of reading a favorite book at a regular time each day, like before bed. Continue the habit after baby’s birth (even in the hospital), and it will feel as if your relationship hasn’t skipped a beat.
When you’re choosing a title, consider sharing one of your own babyhood favorites —Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar never go out of style. Remember that, initially, it’s not the words that matter, but the sound of your voice and rhythm of the story.
Take a moment
Susan Piver, editor of The Mindful Way through Pregnancy: Meditation, Yoga and Journaling for Expectant Mothers, recommends a “loving-kindness meditation” as a way to grow the connection with your little one. She suggests focusing your awareness on your baby and “establishing a mindset that this person is not separate from me, but this person is separate from me.”
The “heart connection” you form through meditation should be one without agenda. Hope for the best for your child without placing unfair expectations upon him. For example, during meditation you may wish your child health and happiness, but it probably would not be constructive to wish for wealth or fame. This type of meditation can help you let go of worries, and the accepting attitude you develop can help you parent in years to come.
Feel the rhythm
Playing peaceful, upbeat music for your baby can put you both on the same wavelength. Listening to music gives you a chance to stop thinking and start feeling, to lose yourself in song while staying in tune with your baby. The music will affect your tiny dancer too—he’ll likely respond to the melody, even moving to the rhythm while in your tummy.
Look for simple, mood-lifting melodies, anything from classical to pop to country to R&B—whatever lifts your spirits. Evidence suggests that playing music for baby can boost his brainpower and encourage language skills. Why not give him a head start?
You and your spouse might occasionally sing to baby as well. Even if you’re not music- ally talented, baby will enjoy it—he’s the least judgmental audience you’ll ever find!