Start building a relationship with your growing baby, and enjoy this amazing journey together
MEET THE EXPERT
Dr Nadja Reissland
is an associate professor of psychology at Durham University, specialising in foetal development.
With all those antenatal appointments to attend and books to read before you make your birthplan
it’s easy to get so busy that you forget what a life-changing journey you’re on right now: bit by bit, day by day, you’re growing a tiny human being. And as your baby grows, he increasingly shares your experiences and reacts to what is going on in your life. “Babies can be very expressive in the womb,” says Dr Nadja Reissland, who studies prenatal mother-infant interaction from 12 weeks of pregnancy. “Though you can’t see through your tummy to your baby, you can be sure that he can interact with many things that you do. And once you are aware of just what he might be up to, you can start to connect with, and get to know, the person who is on his way.”
Using 4D scans to capture babies’ reactions in the womb, Nadja has witnessed some incredible sights. “I have observed babies between 32 and 36 weeks moving their hands towards their ears when white noise has been played for them,” she says. “This is really exciting as it suggests that the baby is already learning about his body and is possibly making the connection between hearing a sound and his ears. At 36 weeks, we found that a growing baby makes very definite mouth movements in reaction to different frequency levels of sound played, and these movements appear to specifi cally relate to the sounds he hears.”
So while you’re already responding to your baby’s actions —your sleepy smile that follows a kick in the middle of the night —you might not yet have realised just how much your baby reacts to what you’re up to. There’s a little person travelling on this trip with you – and it’s high time you said a big hello!
Practise being aware
To build a bond with your baby, your fi rst step is to discover what your baby responds to, and learn about his reactions. “To connect with your unborn baby, simply be aware of how he reacts to your daily activities,” explains Nadja. “What happens when you exercise, for example? Does he seem to go to sleep when you do your yoga, perhaps, or does he become very active? What happens when you’re stressed, and how does he behave when you truly relax? Being sensitive to what both you and he are feeling will mean you begin to relate to your baby as a real, living person, rather than a slightly abstract concept that you cannot see. Just as you would at the beginning of any other new relationship you want to nurture, this is all about finding out what makes your little person tick.”
Stimulate his taste buds
Your baby’s digestive system is separate to yours, but he can taste what you do. Particles of food are transmitted to your amniotic fluid, which your baby starts swallowing early in the second rimester. “Sweet foods and drinks can often wake a baby up and get him moving around. But what does your baby do when you eat something spicy?” asks Nadja. “And what about when you eat something that’s not on your normal menu? Does he have a little dance around if you have a sip of cola? Be aware, and you will get a little window on his likes and dislikes!” The scent as well as the taste of food is carried in your amniotic fluid, so he might enjoy the smell of bacon too. So have a taste-testing session tonight with your baby: “It’s fun and it might help you learn something about him,” says Nadja.