For many women who discover they are expecting, after the initial elation and joy – thoughts about what they can do to enhance a lifelong bond with their child often kick in.
As the pregnancy develops and the bump becomes more visible, what’s the best way to connect with your little person without feeling, dare I say it, a bit silly? People may even ask, ‘Do you talk to the baby?’ It’s normal to feel stumped by the enquiry as talking to non-visible person doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
We had a look at the evidence behind claims that talking to your unborn baby will benefit the child and whether there other prenatal bonding techniques for the days you don’t want to feel like you’ve lost your mind and are talking to yourself.
What the research says
Scientific studies have found that unborn babies are able to respond to a range of sounds and vibrations. Responses may include a change to their heart beat or increased foetal movements and studies have suggested that they are particularly sensitive to the sound of their mother’s voice. Perhaps this is why many babies settle down after hearing their mother’s voices after birth – proving to be a soothing and familiar sound.
How do you talk to a bump?
Some people like to read to their baby, sing tunes as they go about their daily tasks or set aside time in the evenings to talk to the baby together with their partners. From about 24 weeks onwards, the baby can hear the mother’s heartbeat and even the rumbling of her stomach. Some theories suggest that the reason why a baby’s hearing is so well-developed inside the womb is to help the mother bond with her child before he/she enters the world.
What about music? Will my child be a music prodigy if I start early?
There has been some research to suggest that exposure to music in the womb can lead to enhanced neonatal behaviour. In the UK, a small study found that babies whose mothers played a lullaby during the final stages of pregnancy appeared to have more brain activity in reaction to that music [when it was played at birth and later, at four months.
However, the ability to respond to a tune and possessing unique musical prowess are two different matters. Perhaps the child may have a head start, but a host of other factors will always play a role in the abilities of a child. So, if you are not naturally inclined to play Mozart on loop, playing something relaxing and enjoyable is likely to be beneficial to both mom and baby in the long run.
Other ways to interact with your bump
No two mothers or pregnancies are the same so how you decide to interact with your unborn baby will differ. Although medical experts do strongly suggest some advice for the health of the unborn child, talking to your tummy isn’t one of them. If talking to your stretching stomach isn’t for you, many women say that having a massage, swimming, take a long bath, practising hypnobirthing or even keeping an ultrasound photograph of your child near your bed can all help with making you feel more connected to your unborn child.
What about the dads?
Several studies have shown that paternal involvement is as crucial prenatally as it postnatally for infants. Therefore, as well as supporting the mother throughout her pregnancy, there’s nothing to stop dads from chatting to the bump to increase the chances of the baby recognising the voice his/her father on arrival and promoting the father/child bond. When you feel the baby kick and your partner is nearby, use it as a chance to help your partner interact by placing his hand over the movement and starting a father/child conversation. Also, if for any reason dad can’t be around very much, there’s nothing to stop him from recording messages that can then be played to the bump in his absence.
The bottom line
Every pregnancy experience is unique so what acts as a bonding experience for one mother/baby relationship may not prove similar for another. The most important thing to remember is if it feels right for you to chat away to your glorious bump until you are ready to give birth than you should chat away. Once your baby is born, there will be ample opportunity to converse, giggle and interact with him or her so trusting your instinct on this one will always produce the healthiest bond for you all.