Bonding (verb): Forming a close relationship through emotional and physical association.
If you are expecting, you may wonder how you can begin bonding with your baby while he or she is still in the womb. You do not have to wait until delivery to begin that emotional connection. Forming a close relationship with the baby while he or she is in the womb is a wonderful way to strengthen the connection between mother, partner, and baby. Bonding also has significant implications for the overall development of your baby.
Here are a few sweet ways to emotionally and physically connect with your baby prior to delivery:
Whether this is your first or fifth baby, you can connect with your baby as early as your first trimester. Every day as your pregnancy progresses, you are reminded in a few ways that your baby is with you. Not only is your belly growing beautifully, but it may be now that you are considering making lifestyle changes to ensure your body is healthy and prepared for this new season.
Furthermore, the first semester is such a precious time in the baby’s development. Just as your heart beats strong, so do theirs within you. They are active and moving in the womb as well, though you may not sense their movements until the second semester. Accordingly, your prenatal ultrasound appointments can be a great opportunity to bond with your baby and see their movements. During the prenatal ultrasound, you not only learn about your baby’s overall health, but you can finally picture your baby.
Begin taking pictures as your body changes. These photographs can serve as regular reminders that you are nurturing a sweet, growing baby.
As early as your second trimester, your baby can hear your heartbeat and other sounds. You can now begin to feel their movements. Women have described these movements in different ways. From butterfly flutters to bubbles bursting, the sensation can be different for everyone, but an interesting surprise, nonetheless. When you feel your baby moving, you can take the time to gently rub your belly with a massage oil to deepen that bond. This is a great way to let your baby know that you can feel him or her.
By the third trimester, your baby can respond to your voice as well as your partner’s voice. You can use this time to sing as well as read to your baby! Your baby may respond to your voice with movement and this is an opportunity for you to respond to your baby’s kicks where you felt it. This playful back and forth can be really delightful.
Further, you may now be able to see your baby, wonderfully formed, during your ultrasounds. Being able to see your baby at this level of detail can deepen the bond prior to delivery.
Can my partner bond with my baby?
Absolutely. Your partner will also have ample opportunities to bond with the baby! When you and your partner bond with the baby together, this may contribute to a feeling of teamwork as well as mutual love and respect. Remember, it takes a village!
If your partner wants more bonding opportunities, he or she can consider:
- Attending prenatal classes with you. This will be a chance to practice labor positions and comfort measures. As you both begin to imagine the labor process, you can start envisioning the expansion of your family.
- Massaging the baby bump with oils, such as coconut or sweet almond oil, together. Unscented oils can also provide a pleasurable experience.
- Singing, talking, or reading to the baby. As the pregnancy progresses, the baby will begin to recognize your voice and your partner’s voice. Direct communication with the baby will allow for a more profound connection between you as a couple and you as parents.
But what about my older children? Can they bond with the baby as well?
Yes! This is an excellent way to prepare your older child or children for their new sibling.
- You can talk to your other child or children about the baby and ask them how they feel about the new addition. Are they excited? Nervous? Unsure? Talk about it!
- To get them involved during the planning stages, you may ask that they help you as you prepare the nursery. Assign age-appropriate activities such as folding clothing and placing them in drawers or the closet. Encourage them during the process so they can associate the birth with a positive experience.
- Ask your child or children if they want to give the baby a gift, such as a favorite children’s book or toy. This special gift can serve as the basis of a wonderful bond before and after the baby’s arrival.
- If your other child or children enjoy painting or drawing, you can choose to incorporate some of their art in the baby’s room as well. Frame the art and ask your child to help you hang the artwork prior to delivery. Remind the older child or children how happy the baby will be to have this one-of-a-kind art in their room!
- When you attend ultrasound appointments, share any highlights, such as video and photographic images, with your older children. Talk about the baby’s growth and any of their milestones. It can help children adjust to the idea of a new sibling If they can visualize the baby.
There are many ways to include your other children in the bonding process – this will not only encourage a healthy start to the sibling relationship, but it will give you a chance to gauge how your child is feeling about the changes that are coming. Do not hesitate to encourage these opportunities as your due date approaches.
I am feeling stressed and am having a hard time bonding with my baby. What can I do?
You are not alone. It is not uncommon for one to feel stressed or anxious during pregnancy. Some women struggle to bond with their babies during the pregnancy. In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that one in seven women can experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy (ACOG, 2019). If you feel like you need more help during your pregnancy, support for you is accessible.
Consider the following options if you are feeling like you need more support:
- Talk to your birth team, such as your OB/GYN, primary care physician, midwife, and/or doula, about how you are feeling. They may decide that you require additional care to address any mental health concerns.
- Consider joining a local parenting support group. Many cities have community groups for expectant parents to talk about their experiences and concerns. Ask your birth team if they have any suggestions. The National Parent Helpline is also a wonderful resource for parents who need support. Interested in learning more about support services that are available in Massachusetts? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- Finally, get rest. If you are feeling overwhelmed, rest and relaxation is a must not only for you, but for the baby. While not always possible due to the day to day demands you might be experiencing, consider taking 10-15 minutes a day to practice deep breathing exercises and light stretching. Taking some “me” time can be vital.
Let me know what you did to bond with your baby pre-delivery! Did you talk to your baby? Did you ask your older children to help you prepare for the baby? Try anything I did not list here? I’d love to know!
ACOG. (2019). Depression and Postpartum Depression: Resource Overview. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/Womens-Health/Depression-and-Postpartum-Depression?IsMobileSet=false.
Daglar, G. and Nur, N. (2018). Level of mother-baby bonding and influencing factors during pregnancy and postpartum period. Psychiatr Danub, 30: 433-440.
De Cock, E.S., et al. (2016). Continuous feelings of love? The prenatal bond from pregnancy to toddlerhood. J Fam Psychol, 30: 125-134.
Persico, G., et al. (2017). Maternal singing of lullabies during pregnancy and after birth: Effects on mother-infant bonding and on newborns’ behavior. Concurrent Cohort Study. Women Birth, 30: 214-e220.
Rossen, L., et al. (2017). Maternal bonding through pregnancy and postnatal: Findings from an Australian Longitudinal Study. Am J Perinatol, 34: 808-817.