You may have been thinking a lot about your baby, what it may look like, what you may call baby and how you may feed your baby. You may already have a ‘name’ for your bump to help you relate to them more easily.
Have you noticed how your baby moves more at certain times of day? Does baby respond to your voice or to loud noises around it? Take time out to focus on this, talk to your bump, stroke it and include partners and other siblings in this too. This starts the development of a really strong and loving bond between you both and aids the transition to motherhood and being responsive to baby when born. Your baby will also recognise these actions and so you are starting to build those important connections in baby’s brain.
Useful information: Building a Happy Baby (unicef.org.uk)
The importance of bonding with your baby: UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor reads “Baby, I Love You, a special book which helps build loving and nurturing relationships between new parents and their baby, encouraging skin-to-skin contact, holding, stroking, playing and singing”.
There are many ways to develop your relationship with them further. This includes gazing into baby’s eyes, responding to their ‘babbling’, mirroring their facial expressions as well as smiling and talking to baby.
Holding and cuddling baby is important too. Babies cannot be ‘spoilt’, and responding early to their needs helps babies to feel secure and calm. There is a mounting body of research that tells us that these interactions between baby and their family are important for baby’s mental, emotional and social development.
A loving relationship between parents and babies encourages high levels of love hormone (oxytocin) and low levels of stress hormone (cortisol) which supports healthy brain development. Put the work in now. The more you cuddle and respond to your baby now, will lead to more confident, happy, less stressed babies, toddlers, teenagers and parents.
Also, you and your baby will love it too! You are feeding your baby’s brain by having baby close and responding to them!
This leaflet helps dispel common parenting myths: Building a Happy Baby (unicef.org.uk)
Myth 1 - Babies become spoilt and demanding if they are given too much attention.
Reality - When babies’ needs for love and comfort are met, they will be calmer and grow up to be more confident.
Myth 2 - It’s important to get babies into a routine, as this makes your life easier.
Reality - Young babies are not capable of learning a routine. Responding to their cues for feeding and comfort makes babies feel secure, so they cry less, which makes your life easier too.
Myth 3 - You should leave babies to settle alone so that they learn to be independent.
Reality - When babies are routinely left alone, they think they have been abandoned and so become more clingy and insecure when their parents return.
Myth 4 - Babies benefit from lots of toys to help them learn.
Reality - Looking at your face is the best way for babies to learn. Talking, listening and smiling triggers oxytocin and helps your baby’s brain to grow.
For some tips on activities to do with your baby:
Some ideas on managing everyday activities with your baby (bathtime, feeding, playtime, sleeping, changing their nappy) from Pyschologist Dr Joanna Hawthorne: Listening to Your Baby's Voice (Brazelton Centre UK)
If you want to find out about the science of baby development:
Ways to support your relationship with your baby if they are on the neonatal unit: