You shouldn't feel silly chatting up your growing belly. It's one of many great ways to foster a meaningful emotional connection with your baby, even while he or she is still in the womb—and that closeness equals a more peaceful pregnancy experience, says Laurel Wilson, B.S., I.B.C.L.C., a childbirth educator, labor doula and co-author of The Greatest Pregnancy Ever (Lotus Life Press) in Denver.
"We're discovering more and more that the health of the mother—including her mental health—affects her growing baby," adds Wilson. Indeed, several studies have concluded that stress and depression during pregnancy can harm babies' development. The flip-side of that? "When the mother is feeling happy and relaxed, her baby benefits, too," says Wilson, who offers these stress-busting ways to bolster your prenatal bond:
1. Talk to your baby
Take time out to get quiet and send positive thoughts to him or her. "Knowing that you're contributing to the good health and well-being of your baby helps relax you," says Wilson.
2. Take lots of naps
"It might sound silly to say that sleep could aid bonding, but short naps make moms-to-be more present and reduce pregnancy stress, which can have a negative impact on your baby," says Wilson.
Connect with other women in your community or online and share your experiences being pregnant (both wonderful and challenging). Feeling supported and positive will keep the good vibes flowing to your growing bub.
4. Sing a song to your baby
This not only helps relax you, but because hearing develops 18 weeks into your pregnancy, it's possible that your baby will be able to hear your tune, too, and get to know your voice and learn to be soothed by it.
5. Get creative
Take a prenatal yoga or art class, write in a journal, paint or draw, or cook a new dish. Enriching yourself and taking time to do things you enjoy will allow you to tune into the "mothering" part of your brain and help you become a better mom.