Every pregnancy and every pregnant woman is unique.
There is no such thing as ‘normal' when it comes to emotions during pregnancy.
While some women may feel an instant connection to their unborn child from the moment they pee on the stick, for others it can take until the birth (or even after the birth) for that connection to truly take hold.
It may not be something that many pregnant women discuss openly, but in fact a lot of women do struggle to bond with their babies during pregnancy.
If this is your first pregnancy, those first rushes from inside your uterus can be hard to identify as your baby's movements.
If you have experienced loss before, you may find it hard to think positively about the pregnancy, and may subconsciously be delaying bonding as a form of self protection.
Or, perhaps, you are simply bonding with your baby in your own time. Pregnancy can be a daunting time, and you may feel so overwhelmed with the pregnancy and impending motherhood that you feel simply unable to bond with your baby just yet. As you grow closer to your due date, you may feel worried that you do not yet feel that connection with your baby.
Bonding With Your Unborn Baby
Here are some things you can try to help you bond with your bump:
Baby Bonding Tip #1: Use Your Voice
When your baby is born, she will recognise your voice and turn towards you whenever she hears it. She will remember your voice because she has spent months listening to you give presentations at work, natter to your mum on the phone, and belt out tunes like, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!” in the shower. Spend some time each day talking to your baby, telling her about the things you will do together, and how you are feeling that day. You may find that your baby responds to the sound of your voice, and begins kicking and nudging you as you talk. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your bump, trying singing instead.
Baby Bonding Tip #2: Nudge Back
For now, your baby's only method of communication is bumps, kicks and nudges. You have probably noticed that your baby becomes particularly active when you sit down to rest. Play with your baby by responding to her movements, gently poke back when she nudges you, and see what she does. You can also rub your belly in the area you feel movements.
Baby Bonding Tip #3: Get Snap Happy
One thing that makes bonding seem difficult during pregnancy, is that you have no idea what your baby look likes. Though she is growing inside you right now, she can feel like a total stranger. If you were given scan pictures at your hospital appointment, spend time looking at these photos each day. Frame a photograph to keep by your desk at work, set it as the lock screen on your smartphone, and stick it on your fridge.
Baby Bonding Tip #4: Go To Yoga
Prenatal yoga classes give you a chance to escape the humdrum of daily life, and focus on your pregnancy for a while. The yoga teacher will talk you through each pose, explaining how it is beneficial during pregnancy. You will also be given time to relax and focus on your developing baby. This is a great way to guarantee yourself time to focus, which can be difficult to find when you are tying up loose ends at work, packing a hospital bag and preparing the house for a new baby.
Yoga has been proven to be beneficial for depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Read more here.
Baby Bonding Tip #5: Get Dad Involved
It's not just you who wants to develop a lasting bond with your baby – dad-to-be will want a slice of the action too! When you feel the baby kick, place your partner's hands over your tummy so that he can feel the movements too, and let him respond by rubbing your bump in the same spot. He could even read baby a book or two. You may find that you develop a stronger bond with both the baby and the dad-to-be simply by watching their relationship strengthen.
Baby Bonding Tip #6: Make A Keepsake
Invest some time in making a gift or keepsake for your developing baby. You could knit or crochet a blanket to wrap her in after the birth, make a quilt for her new nursery, or make a framed picture to hang on her wall. If you are a beginner, choose an easy project to begin with. You may even like to make a pregnant belly cast (closer to your due date) to remember your beautifully round belly forever. You can paint and decorate it afterwards, or have a belly cast artist decorate it for you. You might choose to have baby’s footprints on the cast, the whole family’s handprints, or any other themes you might think of.
Baby Bonding Tip #7: Take Bump Photos
Not only will your own photos make a lovely keepsake once the pregnancy is over, but will also help you to focus on your growing baby during pregnancy. Set a time each week to take a photograph of yourself sideways on. As you compare the bump photos from each week, you will be able to see how much your baby is changing and growing during the pregnancy. This visual reminder may help to make the pregnancy seem more real, and will give you time to reflect upon the changes occurring. Booking a professional pregnancy photo shoot towards the end of your pregnancy can make you feel special too, where yourself and your partner (or yourself alone) can have some gorgeous moments captured by a professional, that you will no doubt treasure forever.
Baby Bonding Tip #8: Slow Down
Yes, there is a lot to do before the baby arrives, but you don't need to do it all today. You need more rest during pregnancy, so try to slow down and take it easy for a while. Set aside time each day to simply sit and focus on your pregnancy – not a time to write more to do lists or pick out baby furniture – but just a time to sit and think about your developing baby. You could combine this with a walk or relaxing bath if this helps you to fit it into your schedule. Delegate where you can, and don’t feel bad getting help around the home, its very common these days! Accepting offers of help can really take a load off, and remember, people wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to help.
Baby Bonding Tip #9: Write It Down
Consider keeping a pregnancy journal to help you focus on the pregnancy. Don't worry about writing a rose-tinted view of pregnancy, just be honest. Talk about how you feel physically, and any worries and concerns you might be feeling. This may help to identify what is causing any anxiety, and help you take steps to overcome it.
Baby Bonding Tip #10: Have A Blessingway (Mother Blessing)
If you feel like you're not bonding with your unborn baby, a blessingway may help to get some oxytocin flowing.
Unlike a baby shower, a blessingway is all about the mother-to-be. There’s no commercial gift giving involved. Just a loving, nurturing circle of women who get together to share stories, nurture the mother-to-be and to create some beautiful rituals. Being with other women and having the focus on you might sound a little overwhelming for some, but it can be incredibly empowering, grounding and reassuring.
One of your closest friends or family members may even be able to help you to do a plaster belly cast for your blessingway! Painting it either before or after your baby arrives provides an opportunity to make something unique and creative.
If you’d like to find out more about a blessingway, you can read BellyBelly’s article here.
Baby Bonding Tip #11. Focus On Your Good Points
One reason some women fail to bond with their bumps, is that they are too busy worrying that they will be terrible mothers. Some women suffer from anxiety-filled dreams, or worry that they will repeat the mistakes of past generations. Stop worrying. Push the negativity aside, and instead focus on all of the things that will make you a wonderful mother. Write them down and stick them on the fridge… okay, on your bedroom door is fine if you wish. Think about the type of mother you want to be, and how you will go about that. Increased positivity may help you to better look forward to motherhood. Some mothers find that they gain more confidence by reading good books to help give them more knowledge and tools.
BellyBelly has recommended books that are not only full of helpful information but they are gentle on mum and baby too. If you think this could be helpful, have a look at our recommended books for baby sleep and parenting. Two books that are reassuring for new mothers are Parenting By Heart by Pinky McKay and What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen.
Baby Bonding Tip #12: Let Go Of The Guilt
If you don't feel like you're bonding with your unborn baby yet, don't beat yourself up.
Pregnancy can be a difficult time – you are dealing with a changing body, irrational hormones, lack of sleep and are probably preoccupied with worries and concerns for the future. It can be hard to bond with a person you've never met, but that doesn't mean you won't ever feel that strong connection. Try not to feel guilty, and instead focus on trying to bond with your baby, but accept that you might be one of the many mothers who deeply in love after the birth, and not before.
What Other Mothers Say About Bonding With Baby
Recently on BellyBelly’s Facebook page, a mother asked the following question:
“I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant, and I feel awful for even admitting this… but is it normal to not feel connected to your baby? I’ve done everything suggested to build a bond, but I just don’t feel it yet. It’s not that I’m not excited to have a baby, but she was unplanned, and my fiancé and I are struggling financially. It’s just extremely overwhelming. Is there more I should be doing to build the connection? I’ve shopped, set up the nursery, I talk to her every day and play with her when I feel her kicking. I’m just not sure what else to do.”
Here are just a few great responses of many, thanks to some of our fabulous Facebook fans:
“I actually felt anxious after I gave birth, because my connection with my daughter still wasn’t there or what I thought it would be. It took a couple weeks to feel it, and now my daughter is 5 weeks old and I can’t imagine my life without her. It will come soon and you will look back wondering how you ever could not feel bonded to your little one.” — Kelli Britton
“Oh bless your heart! Honestly, don’t feel like a terrible person, sometimes people just don’t feel connected to their baby until they are holding it in their arms! It doesn’t make you a bad person, not one bit. I know I really struggled with my little boy (I’m 26 weeks currently) because he was unplanned, I was told that I had an extremely low chance of ever having a successful pregnancy, and it’s been a very traumatic pregnancy with one thing or another (he’s doing fine, I’m not doing so well). I’m certain that once you have that little girl in your arms, you’ll feel that bond. Don’t fret about it. Xx” — Deanne James
“You’re connecting with her and you don’t realise it. I had the same issue when I was pregnant, but I didn’t give up or lose hope. The day I went into labour and gave birth to my baby, he heard my voice and looked right up to me with his glowing glossy eyes. He knew who I was… and if he could have, he would have smiled, gave me a hug or a wet kiss. I know he would of. Continue to talk and play with her. And make sure daddy does to. She’s excited to meet you guys. And she can’t wait to be blessed into the world!” — I’beez Mona
“I didn’t really feel a connection to my baby until he was born. Sang and talked to him, made plans but didn’t really “feel” that bond. Once they put him on my chest and could feel him breathing, I could feel it almost instantly. He was also unplanned, found out the week after my wedding. New husband came with three kids, and we have one income, so I understand your concerns. Once your baby is out, the connection will come.” — Kirsten Williams
“I felt exactly the same with my second, I didn’t think i’d have enough love to give cause I already had a 1 year old. But once he was born, I fell instantly in love. Don’t worry mummy, that connection will come soon enough.” — Jade Fawcett
“I think the fact that you are concerned shows a mother instinct in itself. Maybe try not to worry so much and go with the flow. Sometimes it just takes time to feel the connection . Dont push yourself to feel it or put any pressure on yourself. Added in the factor of financial strain and timing of unplanned its bound to be a difficult transition for you. Be gentle on yourself xxxx” — Jan Holly
“Postnatal depression robbed me of the ability to cherish the early days and months with our baby. I didn’t have that instant bond/love at first sight that people talk about. It took me until about 3 months to fall in love with him, but it did happen. Be patient with yourself, the connection will come. Hugs to you, it’s a tough road to travel.” — Carla Groth
“Just because you feel this way, you are not a bad person and it doesn’t mean you don’t care. Just asking this question shows how much of a loving mummy you are already. Secondly, try talking to your GP or midwife/doula. I was so connected to my baby, but when she was born I got PND and major anxiety and had to be medicated. I’ve mentioned this because I want you to know that even though I loved my baby and felt really connected before birth, afterwards things changed for me. And just as you are feeling unconnected now it doesn’t mean that when she is born that you wont love her and feel connected to you. If you do feel concerned about PND just talk to your midwife or GP. Its not something to be ashamed of.” — Rowena Rogers