how to bond with your baby before birth

‘A unique experience’: how to bond with your baby before birth


Bonding with your baby doesn’t have to wait until they’re born. While your relationship will blossom when it’s good and ready, Vhi Midwife Support Service Manager Breda Crotty can talk you through some early opportunities to make a connection.


Connecting with your baby is a unique experience, so you should never feel under pressure to bond before you are ready. Sometimes it can start before the baby arrives. You’ll be feeling a mix of emotions during pregnancy, from a sense of joy and achievement to natural concerns and back again. But there will also be opportunities to get your relationship underway during this time.

1. Going for your scans

Your early scan is a major event that can make things feel very real. It will generally happen after 7 weeks, most likely at 12-14 weeks, and it can be extremely exciting to see your developing baby for the first time. Even their heartbeat can help you start to form an image of them in your head and imagine who they will become.

The next scan is more detailed and takes place between 18 to 20 weeks. It shows the baby nearly fully formed, with little hands and feet. You’ll learn their sex, and you can even make out their facial features. Around this time, you will also start to feel your baby physically inside you, so you’ll be getting a greater sense of their presence and personality.

2. Knowing their development

Understanding how your baby is progressing and what they experience as time goes by can strengthen an early bond. Did you know that your baby can also hear your heartbeat? Your baby is able to hear the sounds of your body after about 18 weeks. They’ll also hear outside sounds from around six months into your pregnancy. So they get used to hearing your voice, your partner’s voice, and other repeated noises.

Their eyes start forming as early as week 8. With fully-formed eyelids around week 10, they’ll finally open them and start blinking around week 28. They can detect light, even through your placenta. In terms of touch, they can feel the warmth of your body and rub against the placenta.


3. Talking to your baby

You can soothe your unborn baby by talking to them. If you find yourself upset or stressed and are worried about passing it on to the baby, speak to them in calm, reassuring tones. As well as relaxing you, you’re letting them know, instinctively, that they’re safe. In general, talking to your bump in the third trimester can help lay the foundations for your baby’s emotional and social development, along with memory and language skills. Research shows that babies can slow their movements and heart rate when their mothers speak, indicating the relaxing effect this familiar voice has on them. Of course, some women may feel self-conscious or uncomfortable about chatting to a person they can’t see. If that’s the case for you, there’s no need to force it. Your baby will be picking up on your voice and the voices of others as you have conversations throughout the day.

4. The power of music

Music is an excellent way to bond with your baby, even in the womb. There is evidence to suggest that music stimulates and encourages neural connections and brain development. Some research has shown that when babies heard a song repeatedly in the womb, they seemed to calm when that same piece of music was played after they were born. Singing to your baby can also help to establish a vocal recognition, creating a sense of closeness and familiarity.

5. Monitoring movement

Movement can differ from person to person, and even between first and second pregnancies. You will typically start to feel something between weeks 16 and 20. The sensation is similar to a balloon deflating, like a ‘swish’ that gets steadily stronger as time goes by. Every baby moves in their own unique way, so it’s a great opportunity for you to get a sense of some early “personality” and understand who they are becoming.

In the last trimester, you might even be able to have a “conversation” with the baby using their kicks. Try rubbing or gently pushing your tummy when a kick occurs and see if you get a response.

6. Getting others involved

If you have a partner, share the event as much as possible with them. Get them fully involved in the family unit, so you both feel empowered going into the birth. Bringing them to your hospital visits, scans and antenatal classes where possible will give them their own opportunities to start bonding. Encourage them to feel the baby’s movements when they’re active. It can be tricky to time it correctly, but it will happen. They can also chat away to your bump, especially from six months on when you know the baby can hear them.

As long as you’re comfortable, this goes for other family members. It can be a very private thing, so it’s totally up to you how much you want to share with your wider network. But it’s a great way of introducing this new life to your loved ones and sharing your growing bond with them.

Don't forget, for guidance about any part of your pregnancy, Vhi's Midwife Support Service is on hand to help. 

No ‘one size fits all’ approach

Don’t worry if you’re not feeling that connection. It will evolve gradually and you probably won’t get any single ‘eureka’ moment. The baby’s arrival is when the reality of parenthood really hits home for a lot of women. So take any bonding before that as a bonus. It can also be good to have a network of other parents to draw on their experiences and realise that there’s no ‘one size fits all’. You’re not odd because your experience differs to someone else’s.

If you are feeling particularly disconnected during your pregnancy, there are plenty of resources to help you. That can start with a visit to your GP or chat with your midwife. Remember, you’re not alone.



This content is for information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from your GP or an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about your health, or before commencing a new healthcare regime. If you believe that you are experiencing a medical emergency call 999 / 112 or seek emergency assistance immediately.

Meet our Vhi Verified Expert 

Breda Crotty

Vhi Midwife Support Service Manager