Bond­ing with bump

Learn how to con­nect with your lit­tle one

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

With an­te­na­tal ap­point­ments to at­tend and books to read be­fore you make your birth­plan, it’s easy to for­get what a life-chang­ing jour­ney you’re on right now. And as your baby grows, he in­creas­ingly shares your experiences and re­acts to what is go­ing on in your life, says Dr Nadja Reiss­land, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Durham Uni­ver­sity, spe­cial­is­ing in foetal de­vel­op­ment. “Ba­bies can be very ex­pres­sive in the womb,” says Nadja, who stud­ies pre­na­tal mother-in­fant in­ter­ac­tion from 12 weeks of preg­nancy. “Once you’re aware of just what he might be up to, you can start to con­nect with and get to know the per­son who is on the way.”

Us­ing 4D scans to cap­ture ba­bies’ re­ac­tions in the womb, Nadja has seen some in­cred­i­ble sights. “I have ob­served ba­bies be­tween 32 and 36 weeks moving their hands to­wards their ears when white noise has been played for them,” she says. “This is re­ally ex­cit­ing as it sug­gests that the baby is al­ready learn­ing about his body and pos­si­bly mak­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween hear­ing a sound and his ears. At 36 weeks, we found that a grow­ing baby makes very def­i­nite mouth move­ments in re­ac­tion to dif­fer­ent fre­quency lev­els of sound played, and these move­ments ap­pear to specif­i­cally re­late to the sound he hears.”

So while you’re al­ready re­spond­ing to your baby’s ac­tions – your sleepy smile that fol­lows a kick in the mid­dle of the night – you might not yet have re­alised just how much your baby re­acts to what you’re up to.

Prac­tise be­ing aware

To build a bond with your baby, your first step is to dis­cover what your baby re­sponds to, and learn about his re­ac­tions. “To con­nect with your un­born baby, sim­ply be aware of how he re­acts to your daily ac­tiv­i­ties,” ex­plains Nadja. “What hap­pens when you ex­er­cise, for ex­am­ple? Does he seem to go to sleep when you do yoga, per­haps, or does he be­come very ac­tive? What hap­pens when you’re stressed, and how does he be­have when you’re truly re­laxed? Be­ing sen­si­tive to what both you and he are feel­ing will mean you be­gin to re­late to your baby as a real, liv­ing per­son, rather than a slightly ab­stract con­cept that you can­not see. Just as you would at the be­gin­ning of any other new re­la­tion­ship want to nur­ture, this is all about find­ing out about what makes your lit­tle per­son tick.”

Stim­u­late his taste buds

You baby’s di­ges­tive sys­tem is sep­a­rate to yours, but he can taste what you eat. Par­ti­cles of food are trans­mit­ted to your am­ni­otic fluid, which your baby starts swal­low­ing early in the sec­ond trimester.

“Sweet foods and drinks can of­ten wake a baby up and get him moving around. But what does your baby do when you eat some­thing spicy?” asks Nadja. “And what about when you eat some­thing that’s not on the nor­mal menu? Does he have a lit­tle dance around if you have a sip of cola? Be aware, and you will get a lit­tle win­dow on his likes and dis­likes.”

The scent as well as the taste of food is car­ried in your am­ni­otic fluid, so he might en­joy the smell of ba­con, too. So have a taste-test­ing ses­sion tonight with your baby. “It’s fun and it might help you learn some­thing about him,” says Nadja.

In­tro­duce him to the fam­ily

“It’s a good idea to get your part­ner and other fam­ily mem­bers to speak and make sounds around your bump,” says Nadja. “And you should do it, too. Your baby will be­gin to recog­nise these voices and build at­tach­ments. And once you’re used to sit­ting qui­etly and chat­ting or singing to your grow­ing baby, try to no­tice if he

Bond­ing with your un­born child is all about be­ing aware of him and man­ag­ing your feel­ings about how you are chang­ing

re­acts. Par­ents of­ten tell me that, at times, their baby has a stronger re­ac­tion to cer­tain voices, and they re­ally feel that the baby is re­act­ing di­rectly to that voice. This re­ally helps them re­late to their baby.”

Talk him through your day

The bond­ing process is a two-way street: just as you want to know about your baby’s move­ments, it’s OK to tell him about yours, too. So give him a run­ning com­men­tary on your day. If you’re al­ready hav­ing lit­tle chats with your bump, this is a great way to make your con­nec­tion more con­stant.

There will be mo­ments when you go blank, or feel silly, but these will be the times that you should tell your­self that this is a real per­son you’re grow­ing, so it’s per­fectly nor­mal to be hav­ing a chat. It will also cre­ate mem­o­ries that you might re­call once he’s born: per­haps you’ll be dress­ing him in an out­fit and re­mem­ber chat­ting to your bump when you were wash­ing it in prepa­ra­tion, feel­ing ex­cited at the idea of him wear­ing it. These ‘shared’ experiences will ce­ment your emo­tions to­wards him.

Visu­alise your baby

It’s easy to see your bump as just a big round belly. But spend­ing time pic­tur­ing your baby in­side your womb can help you strengthen your spe­cial con­nec­tion. As he gets big­ger, start ev­ery morn­ing by hav­ing a gen­tle feel for his limbs and see if you can work out where his head is nestled. When he kicks, make a men­tal note of just where that kick was and try to fig­ure out which way up he might be.

“Take time to won­der what he is do­ing right now,” says Nadja. “Is he peace­fully sleep­ing? Might he be smil­ing? Pic­tur­ing his body re­minds you that he is real and re­in­forces how spe­cial it is that you’re co­coon­ing him.”

Record what you learn

As you try out the dif­fer­ent ways of con­nect­ing with your baby, keep a jour­nal of what you learn and how you feel as you progress through your preg­nancy. Bond­ing with your un­born child is all about be­ing aware of him and man­ag­ing your feel­ings about how you are chang­ing. Ex­plor­ing those feel­ings via a jour­nal – writ­ten or filmed – is a great way to fo­cus on your grow­ing child and to see him as a hu­man, with re­ac­tions and feel­ings, just like you. Record your thoughts as if they are let­ters or mes­sages to your baby, and this will fur­ther aid the bond­ing process. You will imag­ine him as a boy or man, read­ing or hear­ing your words one day, and re­al­is­ing how much you loved grow­ing him. You could even set up a sep­a­rate email ad­dress, and send him reg­u­lar mes­sages, which he can ac­cess one day.

Cra­dle your bump

Touch is a fun­da­men­tal part of what makes us hu­man and helps us form bonds with each other, so there’s ev­ery rea­son to use it as a way of con­nect­ing with your baby right now. “When study­ing grow­ing ba­bies dur­ing preg­nancy, we know that twins will pur­posely touch each other in the womb and this helps ce­ment their bond,” says Nadja. “We also know that sin­gle ba­bies hold onto the um­bil­i­cal cord, prob­a­bly be­cause it pulses and this gives them that hu­man con­nec­tion. Your baby will en­joy feel­ing you hold­ing your bump. And he may well be able to feel the dif­fer­ence in touch be­tween you and your part­ner, so spend time to­gether let­ting your baby get used to your touch.” You can use touch to in­ter­act with him fur­ther from 18 to 20 weeks, when you’ll be­gin to feel some def­i­nite nudges from him. “Very gen­tly, push care­fully back when he fid­gets or kicks and see if he re­acts,” says Nadja.

As soon as you start in­ter­act­ing with your grow­ing baby in this way, he’ll stop be­ing just a bump. When he’s born, you’ll al­ready have a re­la­tion­ship with him, and feel a far stronger bond. And he’ll be at­tached to you, too!

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