Do you ever find yourself rubbing your bump or have you seen other mums-to-be doing this? That subtle little gesture is a sign that you're bonding with your baby before birth, beginning to create a connection that often develops very quickly once they arrive.
Though bonding and attachment sound similar, there's a difference between the two. Bonding refers to the love and care you feel towards your baby. Attachment is the emotional connection your baby feels towards you. Bonding goes beyond taking care of their needs and showing affection; it's strengthened through nonverbal emotional communication that makes your little one feel understood and secure.
Both bonding and attachment can begin before your child is born. Whether you're already feeling an intense love towards your baby, or this bond is taking a little longer to develop, there are plenty of ways you can encourage the connection between you before their big arrival.
how can you bond with your unborn baby?
Bonding with your bump begins with taking care of yourself during pregnancy. Feeling anxious, irritable or uncomfortable isn't unusual when expecting – after all, you have a lot to think about, as well as a growing human to carry around.
Slow down, relax and take some time to reflect on the little person you'll soon get to meet. Talk to them about all the fun things you'll do together, or sing your favourite songs. You could even look at their scan photos while you natter away. Getting baby used to your voice while they’re still in the womb gives you a head start on creating those feelings of attachment once they’re born.
Quite often, your daily movements will lull your baby to sleep; so of course, the moment you lie down to rest, they burst into life with a flurry of wriggles. When you feel a little (or hefty) kick, gently press or rub that spot. You’re actually communicating with each other!
how can you encourage others to bond with your bump?
You can get your partner or other children involved in similar ways – encourage them to talk to, sing to and rub your bump. Your partner could even massage your growing belly with pregnancy-friendly oils (which is a bonus for you, too!). If baby hasn't got a name yet, make up a sweet nickname for your family to refer to them by, which helps to give them personality before they've even arrived.
Alternatively, get them to take a daily picture to track bump's progress, or encourage them to make keepsakes for the baby, like family photo books or even cosy knitted blankets and clothing.
what can you do if you’re not bonding with your unborn baby?
Not everyone feels an instant connection to their unborn child; sometimes this doesn't happen until baby is born, and for some people it can take even longer. First things first: don't worry. Remember that everyone's journey is different and your connection with your child will still be extra special, even if it doesn't happen right away.
Pregnancy is such a busy time. You might be finishing off work before you go on maternity leave, or rushing to prepare the nursery and baby-proof the house. Unwind with an activity like antenatal yoga, which encourages you to focus on your unborn little one while helping to soothe away pregnancy aches. Speak to your partner, family or friends about how you feel. You might find that talking it out helps you to understand why you're not bonding with your unborn baby as much as you'd like to.
what happens when you meet your baby?
Chances are, you'll fall instantly, blissfully and permanently in love (and high levels of the hormone oxytocin during and after the birth should help with this). But for some mums, bonding isn’t always instant – and this is totally understandable! You may feel tired, sore and frankly a bit bewildered once baby is born.
If in doubt, speak to your midwife about post-birth bonding tips. They'll most likely recommend lots of skin-to-skin contact and might encourage you to breastfeed, as this intimate ritual can help kindle those warm, protective feelings. Most importantly, give it time and don't be hard on yourself.
If you’re still concerned a few days or weeks after baby's arrival, don't keep your worries in. Seek advice from your health visitor and remember to take breaks for some well-earned 'me time'. You're more likely to feel bonded with baby if you're happy yourself.