Bonding with your baby can begin in pregnancy, while your baby is still growing in the womb. It is a perfect time to start the bonding process during pregnancy. Attachment is very important for your babies development when they are born.
What can babies experience in the womb?
From around 18 weeks of pregnancy your baby will begin to experience sounds. They can hear all the gurgling noises inside your body as well as your heartbeat. They still find your/a heartbeat comforting and familiar after they are born! From around 26 weeks of pregnancy, your baby may start reacting to sounds from outside. You can start playing music to them or your partner could read them a story! This is a great way to start bonding with your baby when you are not the pregnant parent! Your baby will recognise their parents’ voices (and any other people you live with or spend a lot of time with) when they are born. As well as remembering certain sounds from their mother’s language, babies may remember certain music played to them in the womb.
Your baby will open their eyes around 22 weeks of pregnancy and will be able to recognize light. However their sight will continue to develop after they are born.
Smell & Taste
Your baby can take in smells and tastes via the amniotic fluid. Your baby’s taste buds are mature from as early as 13 weeks of pregnancy! Their sense of smell will start working around 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Around 18 weeks, your baby likes to sleep in the womb while their you are awake, as your movement may rock them to sleep. They develop the sensation of pain around 22 weeks, and at 26 weeks they may move in response to a hand being rubbed on your belly.
From about 32 weeks of pregnancy, your baby may start to recognise certain vowel sounds from your language. Some research suggests that very early language development may begin before birth.
How to start bonding with your baby during pregnancy
Some ideas to help you to start the bonding process with your baby during pregnancy:
- Talk and sing to your baby, knowing they can hear you. – Top tip: Use a cardboard tube, point it at the mother’s belly and talk through it to read a story or sing to your baby to slightly amplify your voice.
- Relax, look after yourself and try not to stress. Evidence shows that if a mother feels calm and relaxed during her pregnancy, the health outcome for your baby is better. Your partner or a close friend may be helpful if you need someone to talk to. Listen to my ‘Bonding with your baby’ mp3 to help you bond and relax at the same time.
- Gently rub or massage your belly and press against your baby’s kicks to respond to them.
- Play music to your baby. Some mothers like to place headphones on their belly. Choose calming music such as lullabies or music that mimics a heartbeat (around 60 beats per minute).
Bonding for fathers, dads, partners, non-pregnant mothers and parents
- Massage the bump if the pregnant mother or person is happy for you to do so.
- Feel the baby kicking as often as you can.
- Attend antenatal appointments and antenatal classes together to prepare for the birth and life with your baby.
- If you’re planning to be a birth partner, go to the prenatal classes such as hypnobirthing, as well. It is important that you both explore and understand your options so that you can make informed decisions during the birth.
- Read a story to your baby in the bump, so they get used to your voice.
Bonding with baby for older siblings
Although you may not fall in love with your baby as soon as they are born, starting the bonding process during pregnancy can help your baby to bond with you. Your love for them and bond with them may appear later, once you got to know them a bit better.
Schaal B et al. Human foetuses learn odours from their pregnant mother’s diet. Chem Senses 2000;25:729-37.
Lecanuet JP, Schaal B. Fetal sensory competencies. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 1996;68:1-2.