Bonding with Your Baby-to-Be
By Susan Lupone Stonis and Jacqueline Boyle, The Reading Womb blog
Pregnancy is an exciting time, a time of busy preparation, but it can be mixed with a certain amount of worry or even anxiety. On top of the ordinary stresses of daily life, the multitasking and hurrying to fit more into every day, many expectant mothers find that this is a time when even more is added to their plates, all the responsibilities of preparing for a baby making for a whole new to-do list. The nesting process is a fun and important part of becoming a parent, but by focusing so intently on the future we can sometimes lose sight of the beauty and miraculousness of the present moment. Pregnancy is one of the most amazing and powerful of human experiences, and it’s important to savor these nine months while you’re living them.
As we all know, stress can have a strong impact on our physiological and psychological well-being, and studies suggest that it’s also harmful to your unborn baby. Researchers in the U.S., Germany, and the UK, among others, have found that when a pregnant woman is exposed to stress, her baby’s stress-reaction level also increases. The British study, for example, found that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in amniotic fluid affect dopamine production in the fetal brain, so that consistent stress to the mother can cause an overly sensitized baby who has a lower stress threshold after birth.
But don’t let these words stress you out even more! Just remember that, on the positive side, relaxation is good for your baby—very, very good. So put the to-do list aside for a moment and think of some ways that you can just relax. Yes, you are entitled as a pregnant woman to take time for yourself and your baby. It’s your right, and if it helps, you can even think of it as your responsibility. Pregnancy is one of those rare times in life where you can claim that you’re doing something very important when you’re just sitting still.
Peaceful Pregnancy, Peaceful Planet
“If we aim to create a nonviolent world, we must begin with love and nourishment in the womb,” said Deepak Chopra in his beautiful book, Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. In other words, if you foster calm and peace in your baby’s environment even before she’s born, the effects can last through her childhood, perhaps carrying that deep-seated feeling of well-being throughout her life. Imagine a world where all babies experienced this “magical beginning”! It could become a reality, starting with you.
If you just sit in a comfortable place and breathe, you’re doing the most important thing of all: nurturing and caring for your baby. As you take in each deep breath, be aware that you’re also breathing for your baby. She’s taking in that life-giving oxygen and it’s nourishing her and helping her grow. Now be aware of the rhythm of your heart beating. Each beat brings invigorating blood to your baby, making her stronger every moment. And when you add your soothing voice to the mix—talking, singing, or reading a calming, rhythmic story—you have the formula for perfect relaxation for both mother and child.
Says Deepak, “The process is one that is called neuro-associative conditioning. Your nervous system anchors your emotional well-being to the vibration of the sound.” He also says that “the rhythm and pitch of human voices are clearly perceptible in the womb…. An unborn child becomes familiar with his mother’s voice long before he emerges from the womb.”
Yes, that early connection that expectant and new parents sense intuitively is now being proven by science. A groundswell of recent research has demonstrated that babies in the third trimester can hear, recognize, and even remember sounds—especially their mother’s voice. Studies also show that reading to babies in utero is particularly powerful. Newborns have been found to respond to rhythmic, rhyming stories that were read to them regularly in the last weeks before birth. The wealth of evidence in this exciting new area of study inspired our blog, The Reading Womb, the only comprehensive online resource for information, news, research, and parent-friendly articles about the benefits of reading to babies before and after birth.
So, relax in a quiet place with a book you think your baby will love. As you read you’ll find yourself feeling more calm as your heartbeat and breathing slow down. This relaxation will immediately pass to your baby; you’ll both feel connected, soothed, and peaceful, and you’ll know that you’re accomplishing the most valuable task of all. Cherish this time when your baby is so close to you, when you share everything, every place and every experience. Together you are an incredible symbiotic organism, working in perfect synchrony.
15 Magical Minutes
There is conclusive and compelling evidence that the benefits of reading to your baby before birth are immediate and long-lasting. Establishing a regular reading routine before birth (experts recommend 15 minutes day) is one of the very best things you can do for your child, and we’ve created the first board book especially designed for the purpose! Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be has all the research-recommended ingredients for inspiration and success:
• The rhythm and rhymes are easy to read and will be soothing music to baby’s ears in the third trimester.
• The sweet verses and illustrations allow you to celebrate this time of joyful anticipation and to use all five senses to bond with your baby, as recommended in Deepak’s Magical Beginnings.
• As a fun, unique bonus, this sturdy board book, made in the USA, is uniquely shaped to rest comfortably over your pregnant belly—and around the newborn when she arrives!
• There’s visual appeal for the newborn: the bright and colorful illustrations will capture her attention, and the chunky design and easy-to-grasp pages are baby-friendly.
Yes, there is so much to look forward to as an expectant mother, and your baby will arrive soon enough. But you have every reason to take a “pregnant pause” and stop that fast-forward movement toward your baby’s birth. All you need is 15 minutes a day set aside to savor those precious moments with your baby . . . breathing, reading, and just being together.
Susan Lupone Stonis and Jacqueline Boyle are best friends since middle school and the co-author/illustrators of Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be, winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Award. Susan is a literacy consultant who taught in public schools for nearly 20 years, and Jacqueline is a writer, editor, and artist.
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