Bonding with baby before birth improves infant development, study reveals

Pregnant woman bonding with baby

Bonding with baby before birth could make all the difference to a child’s start in life, a new study shows.

The Queensland study found a link between an expectant mum’s low sense of attachment to her unborn child and some infant developmental delays.

Researcher Grace Branjerdporn from the University of Queensland studied more than 700 mother and child relationships, and the results have been published in Maternal and Child Health Journal, with co-authors Dr Pamela Meredith, Emeritus Professor Jenny Strong and Jennifer Garcia.

Ms Branjerdporn told UQ News the findings suggest a lack of bond between mum and baby during pregnancy could lead to difficult infant temperament and uncontrolled crying.

“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,” Ms Branjerdporn says.

And, while research shows prenatal attachment effects baby’s personality, she says it is unclear what effect the bond has on a baby’s ability to master skills such as walking and talking.

Strong bonds have a lasting impact

“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,” Ms Branjerdporn says.

“The research provides the foundation for looking more closely at assessing and improving maternal-foetal attachment and giving kids a head-start before they are born.”

It is hoped the study will lead to better ways to support mums with their prenatal attachment to achieve better outcomes for babies.

The next stage will involve looking for new ways for mothers to develop stronger bonds with their unborn babies by focusing on women who have experienced perinatal loss, such as through miscarriage.

“By supporting women in this critical time of life, we can unleash the potential of the next generation,” Ms Branjerdporn says.

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