Bonding with Baby Before Birth (When You’re Not Excited About Being Pregnant)

June 1st, 2011 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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There are many reasons expectant mothers may not be feeling excited about pregnancy or connected to their developing babies. Any kind of stress can take away from the joy of pregnancy, from stress about work or a relationship, to stress about giving birth or changing family dynamics. As I shared recently, I’ve been having trouble connecting with my baby during this pregnancy because of my feelings surrounding the fact that my breastmilk has dried up and my concerns that Kieran is being forced to wean before he would have been ready. And like many second- (or more)-time mamas, I’m also fretting over the fact that our family of three is expanding, right when it felt like we had a good dynamic going.

But connecting with baby prenatally is healthy and may help ease the process of forming secure attachments post-birth. Research shows that a baby who is talked to, stroked (via pressure on the tummy), and shown love before birth can feel and be comforted by that love and attention. In fact, babies who are interacted with before birth may even exhibit “larger head circumference and enhanced motor, cognitive, social, and language development after birth compared to control groups.”1 Working through stress and prenatal bonding is also healthy for baby, because there is evidence that a mother’s mood can affect her unborn child due to hormone shifts. “Researchers believe that a stressed mother produces an abundance of stress hormones called catecholamines, which have been shown to, in turn, affect emotions.”2

For those of us who don’t feel that immediate connection to our new little passenger, here are ten ideas that may help spark a bond that will blossom over the weeks and months to come.

Ten Ideas for Bonding with Baby Before Birth

1. Give your baby a nickname. Even if you have no idea what your baby’s name will eventually be, find a nickname that you can use to create a sense of “personhood” for your baby. Kieran was “Bug” in utero and for quite a few months afterward. What did you call your little one in utero?

2. Create a special CD and play it for baby regularly. Are there songs that speak to you of parenthood and love? Songs that you want your little one to recognize as representative of you? Create a “mixed tape” for your baby and play it both before and after she is born. Remember that babies in utero “prefer classical music (Mozart and Vivaldi are good standbys), or any music that mimics the mother’s heart rate of 60 beats per minute (lullabies and New Age music, for example),” so don’t stir up the amniotic fluid with hard rock too often. And delight in knowing that your baby will even be able to recognize music that she heard in utero!3

3. Write a journal. Take a few minutes every day to record your thoughts about your pregnancy. If you need inspiration, you could “write in it as if you are talking to the baby. Not only will this help you bond with your baby, but it is a nice memento for later on, and you can give it to the child when they are old enough.”4 Write letters about your hopes and fears, about your pregnancy journey, about your dreams for the future.5

4. Enjoy a daily meditation. Spend quiet time every day to center yourself and focus on peaceful and loving feelings. Welcome baby, visualize your “perfect” birth, imagine what your child will look and sound like. Visualize breastfeeding and picture your breasts full of milk. Concentrate on the aspects of motherhood that are positives for you.

5. Find ways to interact with baby. As your baby gets bigger, take time to learn how your baby can sense your presence. At different stages of your baby’s development, he can notice and react to sound (especially your voice), light (he will even startle if you shine a light at your belly), tastes (he will suck and swallow differently depending on what you’ve eaten), and touch (he will respond to your pats and tickles). Research has even demonstrated that babies can learn to respond in a certain way in utero (for example, they will learn to kick in response to a set stimulus).6 Involve your partner as much as possible, especially after it is possible for another person to feel baby move – they will appreciate the chance to “talk” to baby, too.

6. Celebrate your changing body. Our bodies are amazing – we nourish another living being into life! Do something to remember this time, and don’t worry about potential stretch marks. Take belly pictures and make a pregnancy progression video. Sketch a tattoo you’ll get someday to mark your passage into motherhood. Paint your belly or have a henna design applied and take fun pictures. Do a belly cast. Create a crazy Halloween costume with your belly proudly on display. Have fun!

7. Create a ritual. Find something special to do during your pregnancy and make time for it every day. A nightly slow dance with your partner’s hand resting on your swelling belly. Starting every morning with your favorite yoga poses. Something that will make you smile and reduce stress.

8. Use baby as an excuse to pamper yourself. Get that prenatal massage. Splurge on a pedicure once you can’t reach your toes. Find a groupon for something that would normally be outside your budget (a hair cut at a swanky salon, dinner at a fancy restaurant).

9. Get to know baby. What foods do you eat that make baby dance? What side of your belly does baby prefer? What time of day is baby most active? Notice these little things. Write them in your journal or share them with your partner or due date club. If you need even more of a connection with baby, weigh the pros and cons of getting an ultrasound.7

10. Talk about your fears/stresses with a friend/therapist. Whether it’s a trusted friend or your partner, a paid therapist, or the other mamas in your parenting group or due date club, share your concerns and fears. Sometimes the simple act of talking about them can help you let them go, and a friend or therapist might have some insight on how to help you deal with them. Take care of yourself!

How did you bond with your baby before birth?

Photo Credit: memoossa

  1. See, e.g., Bonding with Baby Before Birth and How can I bond with my infant before birth?
  2. 7 Ways to Bond with Your Preborn Baby
  3. Bonding with Baby Before Birth
  4. Pre-Birth Communication and Bonding
  5. Bonding with Baby Before Birth
  6. 7 Ways to Bond with Baby
  7. I am not an advocate of any medically unnecessary procedure, including ultrasound. If you’ve never researched how ultrasounds can be more harmful than helpful, try Birth Matters by Ina May Gaskin; Ultrasound: More Harm than Good?; To Ultrasound or Not to Ultrasound: Reasons vs. Risks; or look at this collection of articles gathered at drmomma.org.

14 Responses to:
"Bonding with Baby Before Birth (When You’re Not Excited About Being Pregnant)"

  1. Great suggestions. I never put a name to what I was doing with Pip before she was born (“bonding”), but that is exactly what you’re describing. I liked to lie on the couch in the sun with my belly out before she was born.

    I also wore a Mexican bola, or belly chime. I wore it every day, and I always felt a secret connection to my daughter, knowing she could hear the chimes that I could hear. It was one of my favorite things about being pregnant and gave me comfort when so much was simply uncomfortable!

  2. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    Dionna, I love how you turn your troubles into wisdom.

    The Critter came upon his nickname accidentally, an offhand description that I used at about 13 weeks that somehow stuck. I never thought about it before, but he was the Critter long before he had any other name!

    I also sang to him, mostly made-up songs for some reason.

  3. I was thinking the same thing the other day! How am I going to bond with the baby in my tummy since I’m almost always engaged with activities with my toddler (I’m a SAHM)?

    On one hand, I feel that I should not neglect my toddler but on the other hand, I feel that I should not neglect the baby too.

    I have a nickname for the baby (it’s Spicy Baby btw since I’ve been gorging on spicy foods lately) but as for gender, at 26 weeks+ now, we have yet to get a confirmation since he/she is shy and is always closing his/her legs most of the time.

  4. I had a number of nicknames for my baby in utero. I did have ultrasounds, so many of the nicknames were reflections of those. The first was Hen-lia (combining my favorite boy name Henrik with our girl name choice Julia.) During the 4-5 months Pound Cake stuck for a long time as she weighed 1 pound then. After that I knew the gender so I often referred to her as Jugi (a combination of Juila and Gigi, a name that’s fun to say) in my journal. I do remember hugging my growing belly a lot. At the six month mark, I played the piano daily (really) for her. I would also have conversations with her like an adult.

    Thanks for this post!! I’m thinking about trying for our second baby this fall, and I’m also worried about changing our family dynamic from 3 to 4.

    Good luck to you! Hope you feel better about the weaning situation and wishing you a healthy pregnancy!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks Becky! Yesterday I mentioned to my sister that maybe I need to nickname this baby “Flipper” since dolphins have been such a theme this past month (and I’ve started feeling the baby flutter). I know nicknaming Kieran “Bug” helped us bond with him too.

  5. Great post. It can be hard, I know. I was nauseated for almost all of Charlotte’s pregnancy, so I didn’t feel like doing much and then felt like a bad mother to my Kieran. I also felt bad that he couldn’t nurse as much as he wanted. But Charlotte and I had our own bonding times, too, even if I did get annoyed with her habit of digging her heel into my belly. I ended up with stretch marks in a circle because she’d just keep a heel or elbow lodged into my side. LOL

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      lol ouch!! I think that once I get a little bigger and can feel the baby move more, this won’t be as much of an issue. *Especially* after Kieran can feel the baby – that will be pure magic!

  6. Or just trust that there’s more room in a mama’s heart than you could possibly believe and you think your number 1 has filled it to capacity but you’ll be blown over once more when you find it filling and filling and filling again the first time you meet your new baby. Believe me. It will happen to you!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I do trust that, but I’d love to bond with this baby like I did with Kieran while s/he is still in my belly – I remember that being so fun!

  7. Alicia C.   amccrenshaw

    LOL! “#1 – Give your baby a nickname” was our favorite. We called our little guy “Leonard” much to the dismay of his grandparents! We never let anyone (except my oldest) in on the joke until he was born.

  8. When I was pregnant the first time, we were playing a LOT of Rock Band (I do the singing). Because of that, for the first 6 months or so, classic rock was the best way to calm our fussy baby. She was also exceptionally calm when we managed to play that game for the first year or so. I’ve been feeling very sad that the new baby isn’t going to have the same experience with music early on that Moira did, but I try to remember that this one will have the benefit of a sibling from the get go. An extra person to love you is better then anything else.

  9. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    I’m so glad you wrote about this! If/when I become pregnant with my second baby, I think I will need to work at bonding. My current baby is my whole world and fills my whole heart and I have a hard time thinking about sharing myself with another baby – as weird as that may sound. I’m bookmarking this to read again at a later date.

  10. mamapoekie   mamapoekie

    I think even if you do connect with the baby immediately these can be helpful. Even if it were just to urge you to take a few minutes for yourself. I should remind myself of that too.
    WIll be using in next week’s Surf

  11. Jenny   mamababylove

    my daughter has nicknamed the baby “flower” but during this rough first trimester I really am having trouble connecting and just want to get to the 2nd trimester ASAP! my daughter has been helping me connect though because as soon as I get home from the office she gives not only me a kiss but also baby flower as well!

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