Did you know you can begin the bonding process with your little bundle of joy as early as the second trimester? Here are a few ways to kick-start your connection with the baby in your belly.
While you’re decorating the nursery, driving your husband crazy, and eating whatever comes to mind, you’re probably getting equally excited about holding your newborn in your arms. Whether you can imagine it or not, the youngest member of your family is growing inside you—and he can actually hear and sense the same things you do, even if it’s through a watery amniotic shield. Follow these simple suggestions to develop a relationship with your newest addition before you meet face-to-face in the delivery room.
By week 19, baby’s ears will be poking out from his head, and he will be able to hear you. You may feel a little silly talking to your tummy, but baby loves to hear the rhythm of your voice. Speak to him softly and about anything—groceries, soap operas, the cat. It doesn’t matter what you talk about; the soothing vibrations of your voice will calm your baby and get him accustomed to hearing your native tongue.
While talking to your little one can be beneficial, you don’t have to do it all the time; sometimes silence is best for you and your baby. The quiet time gives you a chance to relax and allows your baby to listen to the comforting sounds inside you. Noises made by your heartbeat, respiration and digestion add to the amniotic sounds of the womb—a custom mix of white noise for your little one.
If you’re uncomfortable babbling to your belly, consider reading aloud in lieu of a one-way conversation. Your child will still have the benefit of hearing your voice, and he’ll get to hear a fun story too. (Try something with rhythm and rhyme—we love anything by Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss!) According to a study conducted by psychological researchers Anthony DeCasper, PhD, and Melanie Spence, PhD, babies who were repeatedly read the same books in utero recognized them after birth. The babies were comforted and calmed when their parents told them familiar stories from their days in the womb.
The sound of music
Listen to some tunes … but don’t pump up the volume. You don’t need to play sounds loudly for your baby to hear them (and powerful noises may startle him), but it is good to play a variety of songs. Musical diversity “is essential and can be useful for baby’s future writing, reading and language skills,” says Philip A. De Fina, PhD, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. Remember, if you’re getting tired of the same old Mozart CD, baby probably is too—mix it up a little when you feel inclined.
Moms-to-be have joint pain, anxiety, swollen limbs … you name it, they’re suffering through it. Massages have been proven to alleviate substantial amounts of pain while stimulating the circulatory system and getting more oxygen to your cells (which is especially beneficial if you don’t always get enough exercise). All this equals one relaxed mama, which puts you in a prime state for baby bonding. Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami has found that massage during pregnancy can decrease the amount of stress hormones (cortisol and norepinephrine) and raise the level of those associated with pleasure (dopamine and serotonin), lessen anxiety, and improve sleep patterns.
Nonetheless, you should take certain precautions. When making an appointment, find out if your therapist is certified in prenatal massage. Only specially trained masseuses should be treating you since pressure points can be more sensitive during pregnancy. You’ll also want to inquire about how you’ll be positioned during the massage. Some therapists have special tables with a hole cut out for the belly; however, these tables aren’t always reliable, as they might put pressure on your abdomen and harm the uterus. It’s best to always receive massages on your side.