Ba­bies know mum’s touch even be­fore they’re born

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Paul Sinclair - By Richard Gray

A MOTHER’S touch is of­ten said to be cru­cial in help­ing her bond with her child, but new re­search sug­gests ba­bies may even be able to recog­nise it while still in the womb.

Un­born in­fants have been recorded reach­ing out to touch the wall of the uterus in re­sponse to their mother ca­ress­ing her bump dur­ing preg­nancy.

Us­ing three-di­men­sional ul­tra­sound videos, sci­en­tists were able to watch how un­born chil­dren re­acted to dif­fer­ent peo­ple touch­ing their mother’s ab­domen.

The strong­est re­sponse came when a mother rubbed her own stom­ach com­pared to when a stranger or the child’s fa­ther did, sug­gest­ing the in­fant recog­nised who was in­volved.

Oddly, the un­born ba­bies re­sponded more to a stranger’s touch than their fa­ther’s. It may also ex­plain why moth­ers of­ten feel their ba­bies mov­ing when they touch their stom­ach but some­one else might not de­tect any mo­tion.

The re­searchers say the un­born ba­bies were par­tic­u­larly re­spon­sive in the fi­nal three months of preg­nancy, sug­gest­ing a key pe­riod for devel­op­ment of a child’s self-aware­ness.

Dr Vi­ola Marx, a psy­chol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Dundee, was the lead author of the study, pub­lished in the jour­nal In­fant Be­hav­iour And Devel­op­ment.

She said: ‘Moth­ers spon­ta­neously and also in­ten­tion­ally touch their ab­domen dur­ing preg­nancy, of­ten to com­mu­ni­cate with the foe­tus. ‘Any stim­u­la­tion can be ben­e­fi­cial to the devel­op­ment of the foe­tus and bond­ing of the mother, fa­ther and the foe­tus. ‘To un­der­stand the mean­ing of the be­hav­iour of the foe­tus in re­sponse to touch needs fur­ther re­search.’ Dr Marx said pre­vi­ous re­search showed un­born ba­bies also re­spond when their mother talks to them, help­ing them to recog­nise her voice after birth.

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