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Bonding With Baby Before Birth

Making a connection with your unborn child can strengthen the bond you share, make you feel closer, and enrich you and your baby's lives.
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WebMD Feature

Jeanne Berkowitz is expecting a baby in late January. In October, Jeanne and her husband went to Hawaii for a "babymoon." While there, Jeanne got a massage from a woman who works frequently with pregnant women.

"She told me that it was important to massage my belly often to introduce the baby to human touch and to the world outside the womb," Jeanne recalls, adding that she now massages the baby regularly, as does her husband. "We can often feel him respond by kicking back and changing positions."

Jeanne says she's not an expert on the benefits of prenatal massage, but reports that "it's fun for us, helps us (especially my husband) think of the baby as a real person, and I can't help but think it has to be good for the baby, too."

Jeanne might be interested to know that there is indeed science to back up her intuitive feelings. According to Carista Luminare-Rosen, PhD, author of Parenting Begins Before Conception: A Guide to Preparing Body, Mind, and Spirit for You and Your Future Child, research shows that babies in the womb have the emotional and intuitive capabilities to sense their parents' love. "Prenates can see, hear, feel, remember, taste, and think before birth," says Luminare-Rosen, founder and co-director of The Center for Creative Parenting in Marin and Sonoma counties, Calif.

Bonding (also known as attachment), says Marilee Hartling, RN, prenatal program manager at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is how babies -- before and after birth -- learn what the world is all about. "It's also part of their personality development.

"When there's a healthy attachment between baby and parent," Hartling says, "the baby comes to believe that the world is a safe place. This is the beginning of the establishment of trust."

Some parents talk about feeling connected to their baby from the moment it's conceived, says Hartling. For others, that feeling grows as the baby develops. Fathers tend to begin bonding later than mothers, for obvious reasons, Hartling says, but they can help the process along by going to doctors' visits with the mother, looking at ultrasound pictures, and feeling the baby's kicks.

When Luminare-Rosen was pregnant, her husband made up a jingle to sing to their daughter, Kylea, before she was born. It was one way her husband could feel close to the baby before she was born, and even as an infant, the jingle would have a soothing effect on Kylea. "Babies can recognize music they've heard in the womb after they're born," says Luminare-Rosen.

Music provides a calm, harmonious environment in which the baby can grow in the womb, says Luminare-Rosen, who has also developed an audiotape called "Communing with Your Future Child."

That's not necessarily any music, however, she says. Studies have shown that babies -- who begin hearing by the 18th week of pregnancy -- prefer classical music (Mozart and Vivaldi are good standbys), or any music that mimics the mother's heart rate of 60 beats per minute (lullabies and New Age music, for example). Hard rock is not the way to go here, especially since the amniotic fluid amplifies the sound. (An occasional rock-out tune won't hurt the baby, says Luminare-Rosen, but a steady diet of it won't make your growing baby all that happy.)

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