A Stronger Bond With Baby Now Means Better Skills Later

According to a new study, babies who feel little attachment to their mothers during pregnancy might be at greater risk for developmental delays.

Mom Bonding With Pregnant Belly Alexandr Kazharski/Shutterstock
You know how important it is to avoid alcohol, keep your stress levels low, and take your prenatal vitamins during pregnancy—but did you know that nurturing your bond with your baby can also be instrumental in determining her developmental health? 

According to a recent paper, the bond between mother and child can make a major difference in the child's development and temperament—and this bond should start before the baby is even born. 

Researchers from the University of Queensland School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences examined records of mother-child relationships to reach this finding, which was published in Maternal and Child Health Journal. The team assessed previously published studies that examined the mother/child bond during pregnancy and took into account social-emotional cognition and motor/language/adaptive behavior in the children before their second birthdays.

Study author Grace Branjerdporn, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland, weighed in on her findings. “People may think a bond between a mother and child begins when the mother cradles their newborn in their arms, but it begins well before they have met face-to-face,” she explained in a release for the study. “Research has shown prenatal attachment has an effect on a baby’s personality, but we are still studying if it has a bearing on a baby’s ability to master skills like walking, talking and problem-solving. Early findings from our study suggest that mothers with a stronger bond to their unborn babies were more likely to have babies that were proficient in a range of skills. The research provides the foundation for looking more closely at assessing and improving maternal-fetal attachment and giving kids a head-start before they are born.”

It stands to reason that your bond with baby matters even before you deliver—after all, you're carrying a growing fetus inside of you, and it's only natural that you cultivate some sort of relationship far before your due date. With that being said, bonding with an unborn baby can be difficult, and while you might feel that attachment without even trying, it's also important that you do what you can to work on that bond so your baby can feel it as well. 

The good news? There are several simple steps expectant mothers can take to improve attachment levels. You could try speaking or even singing to your baby (yes, even if you can't carry a tune!), as he can start hearing you at around 18 weeks.

While communicating with your baby is an obvious way to bond, there are things you can do for yourself that might help up that attachment as well. Keeping your personal stress levels as low as possible (easier said than done, we know) and finding activities that make you feel engaged are great steps to take, according to experts. Surprisingly enough, taking naps might also help strengthen your bond with your child—hey, we'll take it!

Have you tried anything unconventional when attempting to bond with your baby during pregnancy?