Congratulations, mom-to-be! Pregnancy is such an amazing experience, even in times like these. As we all wait for life to get back to normal(ish), it can actually be a good thing not to have too many opportunities to be active and busy out in the world. The less focus you’re putting on the world out there, the more you’re putting on this mysterious little creature in here. This is a wonderful time to bond with your baby-to-be!
Cherish this relatively quiet time at home, building this beautiful connection as your unborn baby grows. And while you’re there, start reading aloud! This is the very best way to bond prenatally. Hearing is the sense that is most highly developed in utero, and the one that gives you (and Daddy and big brother/sister-to-be) the most direct connection with your baby. If you already have one or more kids, sharing this storytime routine with the bump is double the fun and will foster sibling bonding!
So many studies have shown that babies in the womb hear, recognize, learn and remember their mother’s voice (and others’!) and respond to it after birth. This means your familiar voice will calm your newborn baby, and she’ll even recognize stories she heard you read — the best way to raise a book lover and a kid who loves to learn.
Meanwhile, nurturing yourself and your baby right now will help to release endorphins, or feel-good hormones, which will communicate to you and your child, “All is well and calm and safe. Rest, relax, and grow, and soon you’ll join us in this beautiful world.”
What better way to wish yourself…
As an expecting mom, you’ve probably dreamed about what it might be like to feel a baby inside you, to watch your belly bump grow as you imagine life with your future child. Along the way, sharing the excitement and challenges of pregnancy with friends and family has always been considered a big part of this experience. How could we ever imagine that such a normal part of life would become so deeply cherished…and so painfully missed?
According to an article in The New York Times, researchers are now realizing the serious health effects of Covid-19, as well as pandemic life conditions, on pregnant women and babies. One study is currently tracking more than 200 women through pregnancy and for 18 months after childbirth, gathering data on the health of these women and infants.
Lead investigator “Dr. Jelliffe-Pawlowski and her team have analyzed the data from the first group of women, and they are finding ‘absolutely incredible’ levels of stress and anxiety…. ‘Sixty percent of women are experiencing nervousness and anxiety at levels that impede their everyday functioning,’ she said, citing preliminary data.”
In these strange times, when so many people are feeling isolated and lonely, pregnancy can feel especially difficult. Physical and emotional changes are being experienced in a vacuum. The social network of friends and family that have traditionally provided strength and support for pregnant women has been removed. Supportive hugs from friends and relatives that would normally be abundant are now completely absent. It’s natural to experience anxiety in such conditions. Yes, you are incredibly grateful to be expecting a baby, and of course you truly appreciate the amazing blessings in your life, but damn, this is hard!
Mama, it will get better. We promise. And you are doing the right thing by staying home and safe, as challenging as it may be. It’s true you’re missing so many of the joys that pregnant women have always taken for granted, but you are going to be okay. You are brave and strong, and we want to help you celebrate your pregnancy with a few little gifts that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. Here are some treats that are not just fun but also important ways to support your emotional and physical health.
- Would you like a pregnancy spa day? Of course you would! Here are some fun and easy ideas from Everymum for creating a relaxing, soothing, pampering atmosphere right at home: DIY Prenatal Spa Day.
- Aromatherapy has been proven to reduce stress and create a feeling of well-being. Why not add a prenatal aromatherapy self-massage to your spa day? Here’s a recipe from Nikole at Health Nut Nutrition that’s safe to enjoy during pregnancy: DIY Belly Oil for Pregnancy and Postpartum.
- The stress of the pandemic is leaving many of us with a need for a cocktail. Here are some fun and easy mocktail recipes from Casey at DIY Playbook that are even better than the real thing: Refreshing Mocktails for Pregnancy.
After your spa day you might be in the mood for some decadently delicious treats. FittaMamma shares some extra healthy dessert recipes created just for pregnant women. Each of these yummies offers the extra nutritional boost you need right now, but they’re so incredibly delicious you won’t realize how good they are for you: Healthier Pregnancy Treat Recipes. Also be sure to check out the variety of mouth-watering healthy recipes developed by Victoria at Preggie Veggie.
- We all know about the powerful benefits of meditation. This beautiful guided meditation from Yogi Candi will help you to relax and bond with your expected little one: Guided Meditation for Prenatal Bonding.
- If you’re in the mood for learning more about how to bond with your baby prenatally, we’ve discovered some informative and interesting podcasts that highlight discussions with experts in the field. (Shameless plug: Jackie and Susan are special guests on the Stork Storytime podcast, all about reading to babies in utero!)
- Finally, if you’d like to connect with your baby by reading, you can start with Belly Books, written specially for the purpose. And then try singing the lyrics as a lullaby! As you know, research shows that talking, reading and singing to your baby prenatally creates a beautiful bond that strengthens and enriches your relationship with baby when he or she arrives.
So if lockdown has got you feeling like a fairytale princess locked in a gloomy castle tower, we invite you to turn that tower into a cozy sanctuary. Look at this extra time as a gift, and use it to connect even more closely with your baby without the distraction and noise of the outside world.
The more you can relax, the more your baby will relax inside you. The more you talk, sing and read to your baby, the more he or she will become accustomed to your voice. You can build memories and share love now, in this quiet time before the world returns to normal. When baby arrives, you’ll know in your heart that you helped each other survive and thrive during these months, and your bond will be all the stronger for it.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the ordinary little miracle that is happening right now. You’re pregnant. Countless women (and females of all mammal species) have been in this condition for eons. Today 4.3 babies are born on earth every second!
But no one else is carrying your baby.
And no one’s experience with this amazing process is quite like yours. So indulge yourself for a minute and really feel the wonder of it. Breathe a sigh of gratitude. You’ve been caught up in the excitement and the worries, the preparations and shopping, the fascinating new shapes your body is taking and all the strange (sometimes overwhelming) new sensations you’re feeling. Meanwhile, this little being is riding along inside you, enjoying the bounces and the taste of your breakfast . . . and (by the third trimester) eavesdropping on everything you say!
Yes, you are already communicating with your baby. He knows the rhythms of your body and your sleep cycles, your movements and stillness, and, most important, the sound of your voice. Compelling research shows that their mother’s voice plays a crucial role in babies’ growth and development in the womb. Long before you hold your baby in your arms, you begin nurturing him through the power of your unique voice.
Deepak Chopra writes about this connection in his beautiful book, Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth:
The process is one that is called neuro-associative conditioning. Your nervous system anchors your emotional well-being to the vibration of the sound. . . . 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.
This early connection, which expectant and new parents sense intuitively, is now being proven by science. Research shows that babies in the third trimester can hear, recognize, and even remember sounds—especially their mother’s voice—and this stimulation plays a vital role in their development.
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. When your newborn baby cries, you can read him a poem or story you’ve practiced repeatedly during pregnancy and he will be stilled by the familiar beat and the beauty of the voice he has been listening to for months.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have one more way of comforting your new baby when he gets fussy? If you start talking, singing, and reading to your baby in the womb, you’ll see his face light up when he hears you in person! Until then, you can know that he is already loving, and learning from, the sweet sound of his mother’s voice.
“If we aim to create a nonviolent world,” says Deepak in his book, “we must begin with love and nourishment in the womb.” In other words, if you foster calm and peace in your baby’s environment even before he’s born by communicating with him consciously, the effects can last through his childhood, perhaps carrying that deep-seated feeling of well-being throughout his life and sharing it with the world.
Imagine a world where all babies experienced this “magical beginning”! It could become a reality, starting with you. Now, that opportunity is a lot to be thankful for.
We at The Reading Womb are so grateful to all of our readers, and to everyone who has supported Belly Books, the first board books specially created to read to the baby in the womb.
There is so much to do to get ready for the arrival of a new baby. You may be setting up the crib, stocking up on diapers, and checking and double-checking that you have enough onesies, blankets, socks and other newborn essentials. These preparations all make good sense and help parents to feel at ease, but the truth is that your newborn will not actually respond to any of these things.
Your baby has come from a place that is dark and warm, where the swishing stomach sounds, the rhythmic heart thumps, and the sweet, sweet sound of Mama’s voice are all the comfort required.
We’re not saying that the practical details aren’t important, but what if we told you that there’s something even better? There is something you can do to prepare now that will preserve your newborn’s feeling of safety and comfort when she leaves the calming refuge of your body and enters a place where she’s barraged with an overload of unfamiliar sensory stimulation.
Whether you have just started your pregnancy or are nearing the finish line, there’s an investment you can make right now that will pay incredible dividends down the line.
For decades vast amounts of research (see our Research page) have shown that babies in utero hear and respond to repeated rhythms and rhymes and are soothed and calmed when they hear the same verse at birth.
Let’s repeat that: Babies are calmed and soothed by rhythms and rhymes they heard before birth. Have you ever seen a onesie that can do that?
So we at The Reading Womb implore you to add something else to your Getting Ready for Baby list: READ!
Reading to babies in utero is easy. Just choose a book that’s short, simple and rhyming (we have the perfect suggestion). Read the book a few times each day, and when baby arrives you’ll see the magic for yourself. Read to baby now, and when your newborn leaves the comfort of your womb for the uncharted territory of the new world, you’ll have something that’s guaranteed to ease the transition.
Once your baby hears the familiar story, read in the voice she loves the most, the results will be palpable. Baby’s heartbeat and breathing will slow down, her crying will stop, and her body will relax, all because you have created a real connection to her safe and comfortable life in the womb.
If you’re approaching your due date and have started to think about what to pack in your hospital bag, don’t forget to pack the special book you’ve been sharing with your baby over these weeks or months. Although you’ll be meeting your baby face-to-face for the first time, you have already created a memory together. This shared reading experience will infuse sweetness and comfort into all the story times—and family times—to come.
Best sibling bonding ever when you read to the bump together!
The Belly Books Giveaway ends today!
Take some Me time and read to the bump!
Don’t miss the Belly Books Giveaway!
Read to the bump —
and do it with flair!
Don’t miss the Belly Books Giveaway!
Bond with your baby-to-be — read to the bump!
Don’t miss the Belly Books Giveaway!