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From singing a lullaby to reading aloud ...easy ways to bond with baby before birth

From playing music to telling them about your day, there's many beneficial interactions with the little one growing inside you

By Kate Whiting

There's nothing like the first time you feel your baby move inside you - like a little butterfly fluttering across your tummy. Okay, it's also a little bit like bubbling wind, so it's easy to mistake it for your digestion kicking in after a meal.

For first-time mums, the baby's movements can start between 18 and 20 weeks, while for those having their second and beyond, it can be as early as 16 weeks.

As your baby grows, you can start to see the outline of limbs moving across your tummy as it wriggles into a more comfortable spot - a little unnerving at first, so you might think it's actually an alien baby.

Apart from the scan pictures, these movements are often the first real sign there's definitely a little person growing in there and it will make you want to start communicating. Here's why and how.

Why it's good to talk to your baby:

Babies are designed to keep their senses open for stimuli in the womb. From about 18 weeks, they can hear sounds from outside the womb and may even recognise your voice when they're born.

Recent research found they are programmed to recognise faces, turning their heads to look at lights that picked out two eyes and a nose - and ignoring random configurations of lights.

"The foetus in the third trimester actively seeks out information," says Professor Vincent Reid, a psychologist at Lancaster University and study head.

"What this means is that other ways of interacting with the foetus can be considered. I would encourage parents to read books out loud to each other. This can help with bonding and could be beneficial."

Michelle Lyne, professional adviser for education at the Royal College of Midwives, agrees. "It has been shown that women who make strong emotional attachments to their foetus in utero are more likely to seek support and have positive mental health through their pregnancy," she says.

"They are more likely to go on to have strong emotional attachments post-delivery that should help their children grow into confident, secure and independent adults.

"But don't worry if that doesn't happen right from the beginning. For many women, it is only as they move through their pregnancy that they may allow themselves to attach to, and with, their unborn baby, and it is possible to encourage those feelings."

How to bond with your bump:

Channel positive energy

"Unborn babies are very receptive to their mother's happy or sad emotions and stress levels, so trying to manage stress during the pregnancy is important," says Lyne.

"Thinking positively about the pregnancy and the growing foetus/baby to the point where that warm fuzzy feeling comes over you, helps to increase oxytocin levels, the love hormone."

Play soft music or sing

"Play/sing songs and music that create a feeling of calmness for you. Babies recognise the songs when they are born and (that can) help you manage stress," says Lyne.

"Become attuned with how your baby responds when you listen to different types of music. What makes them calm and what makes them active? If you listen to certain radio programmes or watch certain TV programmes, at certain times of the day, babies recognise those when they are born."

Talk to your baby

"Simply tell them about where you are going, travelling to or what you have done through the day."

Touch and stroke your bump

"Gently stroking your abdomen releases calming, relaxing hormones for both you and your baby and can keep you in touch with your baby's activity; a good sign of well-being in your baby."

Get dad and other kids involved

"Involving the father and older siblings in these activities can also help bring all of you closer together," adds Lyne.

"Just have fun building that relationship, getting to know each other and looking forward to that new beginning."

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