Your pregnancy to-do list may be a mile long (hello, new baby checklist!), but make time for one more activity: bonding with your baby. Bonding with your baby during pregnancy is important for your relationship and will help you get ready for parenthood, says Michelle O’Neill, R.N., Ph.D., author of Meditations for Pregnancy: 36 Weekly Practices for Bonding with your Unborn Baby.
“One of the best reasons to connect in utero is that it helps mothers discover feelings they didn’t even know they had,” says O’Neill. Taking time to bond can bring to light your hopes and dreams for your child, your fears about becoming a mom, and even help you learn more about the parent you want to be. Not sure how to begin?
Here are five simple yet rewarding ways to bond with your baby during pregnancy.
1. Massage your belly
From the minute you found out you were pregnant, you probably started placing your hands on your abdomen. “You see pregnant mothers do that automatically,” says O’Neill. “It calms their whole body down, and the baby too.” When you can feel your baby move, usually starting around week 17 or later, you can give your belly a rub anytime she gives a kick or wiggle.
2. Listen to music together
Doing so may create bonds that last even after your baby is born: A recent study showed that babies who were played simple melodies in the womb remembered them after birth, even if they hadn’t heard the melodies in months. Which tunes should you pick? Any kind of calming music works, says O’Neill, but baroque, like Bach or Handel, might be best, since its heartbeat-like tempo is especially soothing.
3. Sing and talk
Feel silly chatting with your bump? Don’t! Every time she hears you speak, your baby is learning the sound of your voice. Try making storytime a routine with your baby before she’s even born by reading a book out loud before bed. She won’t understand the meaning of the words yet, but the rhythm and the tone of your voice will be comforting regardless, O’Neill says.
4. Try yoga or meditation
While prenatal yoga often focuses on the mother, it can also offer some uninterrupted time to connect with your baby. “Sometimes a pregnant mother is so busy that the only time she has to relax is at the end of a yoga class,” says O’Neill. Meditation is another option that offers tranquility and reflection, but don’t feel like you have to become an expert: There are lots of books, apps, and CDs out there to help you get started, like Cultivate Your Happiness Mama-to-be book.
5. Keep a journal
Writing in a journal won’t just help you record sweet or funny memories (like that weird pregnancy craving), it’ll also help you process the experience of being pregnant. Not the diary type? Try writing a letter, or a line-a-day journal where you can jot down just one thing you thought, felt, or wondered about your baby that day.