Design your baby through prenatal bonding
Gender aside, if you could design the ideal baby what characteristics would you give it? Healthy, contented, slept well, ate well, responded positively to the world, was able to self-comfort, connected easily with others and learnt quickly? It’s not pot-luck. From conception the baby is responding to its environment, that is, its mother's body. So the key is to be, do and have all the characteristics you want in your baby, and that includes happily eating vegetables!
What your baby learns in the womb sets up its expectations of what's normal and creates set behavioural patterns which can carry on throughout childhood and perhaps its whole life. Here are seven ways you can easily make a positive difference:
1. Eat a wide variety healthy food regularly
Eating irregularly impacts on your blood sugar levels and your baby responds by using the limited supply of glucose for her brain development, meaning other organs can miss out. She can adapt but will develop her metabolism for lean times, causing problems when she is fed a richer diet after birth, increasing her risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes later.
Eating a wide variety of healthy food means you are both more likely to get the nutrition you need to thrive, and baby develops a preference for healthy foods and accepts variety, so is more likely to feed easily after birth. A baby whose mother's diet is high in sugar, salt or fat and bland in variety will show a preference for those and be 'fussy' eaters. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and drugs all inhibit your baby's ability to thrive in the womb.
Keeping our bodies well hydrated enables our brain to function well, our body to flush toxins, and blood pressure steady. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated, and sometimes when we think we are hungry, our body actually just needs more water. Drink filtered water when possible, tap water otherwise. Avoid 'diet', 'sport' and 'soft' drinks.
Exercising regularly within your limits improves your emotional and physical health, and can alleviate leg cramps, backaches, constipation, breathlessness and stress. The hormones you release during exercise pass through to your baby so he receives an emotional lift from your adrenaline and all the feel good endorphins. She learns in the womb that regular exercise feels good and is part of daily life.
4. Give and Receive Love
If the mother is feeling loved, secure and happy, so will her baby as he is very aware of any change in his environment. Anger tenses his world, happiness relaxes it. In the womb the baby learns its parents' voices and responds to the tones. The whole family unit, particularly the father, plays a significant role, and love is increased by giving. Loving physical contact between mother and father sends positive messages and feel-good hormones through to baby too.
From the moment you know you are pregnant welcome your baby and let him know he is loved. Talk with your unborn baby, stroke her, as she gets older, massage too, sing, play music, keep a diary of your thoughts to give to him later. Encourage your partner and other children to do the same. Sometimes stressful situations happen, so take care to reassure you baby as soon as possible. Do this by first calming your own breathing and heart rate, then speaking reassuringly to baby while you place your hand on him.
6. Sleep Well
Allow yourself to rest, to have quiet times to allow your blood pressure to lower, and teach your baby to relax as well. Following all of the other keys will make it easier for you to sleep well, and for your body to regenerate and adapt to its rapid changes. Your baby learns the benefits of resting and sleeping in regular patterns.
A mother's anxiety produces the stress hormone, cortisol, which can impact baby in two ways, by reducing blood flow therefore oxygen, and by crossing the placenta and affecting brain development. These early experiences can also set the pattern for how the baby responds to stressful situations throughout life. By eating, resting, exercising and loving well mothers are better placed to counteract some of the effects of unavoidable stress. Take time to consider your priorities in the work-life balance, and to resolve any relationship issues, preferably before conception.
For more detailed information on these points, and the research studies behind them, please refer to “Bonding Before Birth: prenatal nurturing for your baby” by Dr Miriam Stoppard (2008 DK Publishing), available from www.growingcontent.com.au/page7.php
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