Even before I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to start developing the bond with my baby as early as from the womb. While many parents­-to-­be find it hard to grapple with the notion that a foetus (or embryo, if you start really early) is sentient, I don’t think that that’s a good reason to strike off connecting meaningfully with your bump.

Prenatal bonding has been studied in depth in recent decades, and researchers have found strong correlations between prenatal choices and babies’ development. In other words, what you do during pregnancy intimately impacts the health of your baby. So it’s not hard to believe that she can feel your love, even in the womb!


Direct Imprinting

You see, your baby gets direct vibes from you. Your body holds the entire environment she’s immersed in from conception to birth. Every emotion, thought, or action shapes her growth and creates an imprint that manifests even after she’s born.

She may not seem to remember anything, but your newborn is not the blank slate people perceive babies to be. Studies show that a newborn baby displays a preference for stimuli she was exposed to in the womb (such as her mother’s voice and music that was played frequently during the pregnancy) by sucking more strongly or turning her face towards the stimuli.

This is also why mums who were depressed during pregnancy have a higher chance of having babies who are prone to unhappiness themselves. Stress hormones released during the pregnancy can have a negative impact on the baby. So pregnant mummies, stay cheerful and happy!

As mums, we have so much control over the environment our baby is growing in and how healthy and happy she will grow up to be. That’s how strong the physiological and psychological link between mother and baby is. It all starts in the womb.

15164226747_c7a74507cc_zImage cc licensed (CC BY-SA 2.0) flickr photo by Felipe Fernandes

Benefits of Early Bonding

Some parents may feel that prenatal bonding is a premature act. The baby hasn’t arrived, and it certainly feels awkward to be talking to your belly.

However, the benefits make it all worth it:

1. Baby is healthier and meets developmental milestones

Disruptive stress hormones interfere with the normal development of a foetus. Research shows that anxious mothers­to­be were twice as likely to have children with behavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Babies of women who suffered domestic abuse also scored poorly in mental development tests and were slow to talk. Scary, eh? So by building a strong bond with your baby while she’s still in your belly, you’re safeguarding her against the negative effects of a stressful pregnancy as well as building up her physical and emotional resilience to stress.

2. Baby learns to self-­soothe more quickly, leading to a calmer baby (and fewer sleepless nights for you)

Turns out calm babies aren’t just by a stroke of luck. If mum feels happy and relaxed throughout her pregnancy, the oxytocin released (also known as the love hormone) plays a big part in developing calming neural connections that dispel fear and anxiety. This means that when the baby is born, she will learn to self­soothe and self­comfort earlier and more easily. The self­quieting skill has become hardwired in her brain.

And because self­-soothing babies fall asleep faster and sleep for longer periods, they’re able to get the adequate amount of sleep (16­17 hours of sleep daily) they need for optimum growth, giving you a calmer, healthier baby.

3. Baby is less likely to be a picky eater

Here’s a classic case of practising what you preach. How do you avoid all that mealtime hassle and ensure your child gets better nutrition? By making healthy food choices while you’re pregnant. Babies’ taste buds develop 13 to 15 weeks into pregnancy, enabling them to detect simple tastes. Food that Mom eats will influence the taste of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, much like how flavours get into breast milk. Now that you have exposed Baby to these flavors for nine months, it’s no wonder that she will prefer the same foods you ate while carrying her.

4. Junior will be easier to discipline

With a secure, trusting relationship, your child will be more receptive and easier to handle. I’d imagine that to be very handy when disciplining a kid, and even more so when the tumultuous teenage years roll around. A friend of mine who engaged in prenatal communication with her son believes that to be the case: After birth, he was an easy baby who seemed to have a special bond with her and could understand her without fuss. Today, at 14 years old, he is still more receptive than the typical rebellious teenager and she finds it easier to communicate with him.

prenatal bondingImage cc licensed (CC BY-SA 2.0) flickr image by M Sundstrom

Ways to Connect with Your Baby

At about 19 weeks, your baby’s hearing starts developing and by 23 weeks, her ears are developed enough to pick up sounds from outside the womb. But I don’t believe in starting the bond only till then. There are so many ways to reach out to your baby!

­ • Talk to your baby
­ • Sing songs to your baby
­ • Read stories or nursery rhymes
­ • Listen to relaxing music
­ • Write letters to your baby
­ • Send positive thoughts to your baby
­ • Gentle massage of your belly ­ touching your belly activates growth hormones
­ • Meditate
­ • Visualise your baby and send loving thoughts her way

Daddy Joins in the Fun

For many dads, pregnancy can seem unreal. They can’t see or hold their baby yet, so the notion of being a father often materialises only at the point of delivery. However, you can kickstart the father-­child connection before birth, by having him be a part of the bonding process.

Before bed, my husband will put his ear close to my belly and talk to our baby. He’ll tell him about his day, how much he loves him, and to be a healthy baby. As a mom and wife, I get warm fuzzies sharing these special moments with my hubby and baby ­­ which Baby will most definitely feel as well! (remember the oxytocin effect?)

Not only does bonding boost your relationship as a couple, it helps your hubby feel more involved in the pregnancy too. He’ll enjoy being able to be the supportive partner you need, and this will prepare him to be a supportive dad as well when the baby arrives.

There’s simply everything to gain and nothing to lose with prenatal bonding. So the next time you feel silly chatting up your bump, just remember, you’re building a strong, secure bond that will benefit your baby for the rest of her life.