How can parents bond with their babies prenatally and why it is important?

Pregnancy & Birth Blogs

Bonding has Life Long Benefits

Bonding during the prenatal period between mother, father with their unborn baby has life long benefits. The quality of that bond influences the baby’s future physical growth and the mental and emotional development for the rest of it’s life. In general the elements of bonding are voice, touch, vision and smell.

So how can parents bond?

One of the means is using their voices by talking, singing and reading stories. The unborn baby begins to hear by 16 weeks (Shahidullah &Hepper, 1992), even before the ear is completed. This is linked to the vestibular system and the cochlear system as it forms (Tomatis, 1991; Blum et al., 1993) By talking to the baby about their excitment, love and joy of being pregnant, sharing their positive day to day experiences with their baby, explaining the negative ones by telling baby that it is loved and wanted and that this stress has nothing to do with their love for it. In some cases, a pregnant woman’s watching something horrifying on television affects the fetus as well as the mother (Correia, 1987; Correia, Leader &Clark, 1992).

Fetuses inside mothers waiting for amniocentesis are more active than when mothers are waiting for a routine sonogram (Rossi et al., 1989). Henry Truby (1975) discovered that a voice spectrograph taken of a baby’s first cry at 28 weeks already corresponds to the intonations, rhythms, and other speech characteristics of the mother and could be matched with her spectrograph – proof of both hearing and learning. Babies recognize their parents voices after birth and the stories which have been read to them in the womb. Research by DeCasper &Spence, 1982, has shown that they will suck at whatever speed is necessary to hear these stories rather than by others by the same author, which was their mother. Marie-Claire Busnel has demonstrated with premature babies that the heart rate will shift predictably as mothers shift from talking directly to them, to talking to someone else nearby, and back again (Busnel, 1992).

Talking and listening intuitively to the baby create positive imprints of being wanted and loved, feeling heard and safe in the baby. Babies not only hear the mother’s voices but also receive her thoughts. So thinking conscious positive thoughts and focusing her attention on the baby, creates message of love to the baby. Obstetrician Chairat Panthuraamphorn created a program at the Hua Chiew Hospital in Bangkok. He started it at 12 weeks of gestation, encouraging positive feelings toward the unborn baby. Test results show definite physical, mental, and emotional advantages to those in the stimulated groups (Panthuraamphorn, 1993). These babies showed significantly greater height and head circumference, fine and gross motor performance, and speech and language acquisition. They also smiled and laughed at birth.

Listening to music or playing a musical instrument by the father or mother is another wonderful bonding experience for the mother, father and her baby. Sounds heard by the unborn baby form an important developmental component because they provide a foundation for later learning and behavior. Wilfried Gruhn, Emeritus Professor of Music Education at the University of Music in Freiburg, Germany said in an article published by the International Society for Music Education that, “Music stimulates the growth of brain structures and connects many activated brain areas.

Learning is based on the plasticity of the brain, which is the most powerful in the early years; however, it keeps going over the entire life span. The brain develops according to how we use it. All experiences are stored in the brain and influence its neural structure.” Listen to music also reduces stress levels in the mother and in the baby, henceforth it enhances the stimulation of your unborn baby’s growing brain. Exciting new studies found that children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb, for at least a year after birth. Dr Alexandra Lamont from the Music Research Group at the University of Leicester was quoted in a segment of the BBC’s “Child Of Our Time Today,” saying, “We know that the fetus in the womb is able to hear fully only 20 weeks after conception.

Now we have discovered that babies can remember and prefer music that they heard and relaxed to before they were born over 12 months later.” Babies who hear the same music that was played while in the womb fall asleep faster and sleep longer than babies who did not hear music.“
By 14 weeks, the tasting mechanisms are in place and sucking and swallowing can be seen via ultrasound (Mistretta &Bradley, 1975; Cowart, 1981). The baby will speed up or slow down swallowing of the amniotic fluid and in reaction to sweet or bitter tastes (DeSnoo, 1937; Tatzer et al., 1985) Babies are exposed to the tastes as well to the smells in the amniotic fluid, this prepares them for their environment they will be born into and taste preferences are acquired already. By the mother being aware of this, healthy food choices can be already favoured.

Touch is another powerful way of bonding with the baby. Rubbing, massaging and playing with the baby are all positive ways of interacting with each other. A “pat, pat” exercise was a routine procedure used by the University of the Unborn’s program to establish in utero bonding between the parents and the prenate (Van de Carr and Lehrer, 1986. A story goes that, a mother told her 18-month-old son that she had a baby inside her. The little boy got up, came over, and said “pat, pat” while patting her stomach. He remembered this activity from his own prenatal experience; it had not been experienced by him after his birth until he replicated it (Van de Carr and Lehrer, 1988, p. 96. The early involvement of the father creates a stronger bond for the parents together and his future relationship with the baby. In Caracas, Venezuela, a longitudinal study of 600 families randomized into experimental and control groups (Manrique et al., 1993) showed that the babies who had been part of the prenatal enrichment group, when measured showed consistently superior visual, auditory, language, memory, and motor skills. In addition, their mothers had greater confidence, were more active in labor, had greater success in breastfeeding, and showed more intense bonding and family cohesion. When measured at later ages, the experimental infants continued to outperform the control infants on every test.

Another study outlining the benefits of early bonding is The Prenatal Classroom: A Parent’s Guide for Teaching Your Baby in the Womb (1992) written with psychologist Marc Leher. Outcome results of this curriculum were published in 1986 comparing 50 full participants, 50 partial participants, and 50 non-participants (Van de Carr &Lehrer, 1986). Significant differences were found in early speech, physical growth, parent-infant bonding, and success in breastfeeding. In 1988, five obstetricians working in the same hospital provided 20 experimental and 20 control subjects for a comparative study (Van de Carr, Van de Carr &Lehrer, 1988). Again, similar trends were confirmed by superior Apgar scores, high maternal ratings of the babies, and births that were “easier than expected.”

These ways of interacting and bonding with the baby set down the foundations of emotional security and lifelong patterns for well being and intimate relationships are being formed. Perceptions about oneself and mental expectations about life are being created on a very deep subconscious level.

For the mother and father, a healthy life long relationship with the child has been started leading to more understanding and stronger family ties.

Christina Petersen

Christina is one of our wonderful practitioners in Western Australia. Christina is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, HypnoBirthing Practitioner & Fertility Consultant. She is also a reflexologist, Maternity Reflexologist and Infant Massage Instructor. She is a valued member of the Australian Steering Committee for HypnoBirthing International.
Christina originally trained as a Physiotherapist in Germany over 20 years ago. Through her own personal journey, she became very interested in the power of the mind and natural ways of healing, which lead her to become a Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, HypnoBirthing Practitioner, HypnoBirthing Fertility Consultant, Reflexologist and Infant Massage Instructor. Christina works now since 7 years in private practice in Perth and works also as a Trainer and Assessor. She has become aware of the importance of the prenatal period 20 years ago and is a founding member of the Prenatal Education Association of Australia promoting awareness and education through talks and events.
Christina is passionate about empowering and assisting parents to create a relaxed, joyous and satisfying pregnancy, birth and postnatal period and to give theirs babies the best possible start in life.

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