“Fathering begins before birth.”

So says Dr. Sears (William Sears, M.D.) in his book Keys to Becoming a Father. As an expectant dad, you know this already, and you’re probably deeply involved in your partner’s pregnancy. But did you realize that you can start forming a real and active bond with your baby long before he’s born?

Besides your loving touch on Mom’s belly, your strongest connection with the coming baby is through your own unique voice. In our July 2011 post, “Go Daddy!” we said, “there is some evidence that it may help the acoustics if you keep your mouth right up close to the belly,” and Dr. Sears adds some more recent info on this:

Some researchers suspect that the preborn baby actually may hear the father’s voice better than the mother’s, because the amniotic fluid transmits the resonant low-pitched male voice more easily than a higher feminine voice.

So talk away, Daddy! There’s growing evidence of the powerful effect your voice has on the baby before and after birth. As Dr Sears says:

Studies have shown that babies whose fathers talked to them before birth attended more to their father’s voices soon after birth, perhaps indicating that the sound of the father’s voice had been imprinted on the mind of the preborn baby.

Talking to “the bump”—it’s catching on!

We’re thrilled to see a wealth of anecdotal evidence now adding to the body of scientific evidence we’ve been sharing with you here. For example . . .

Dr. Sears shares his firsthand knowledge of bonding with his four children in this excerpt from his fathering book, and gives this advice:

At first you may feel somewhat foolish, a grown man talking to a bulge. But after this initial awkwardness, you will become more comfortable with this nightly ritual. No one is going to hear you, except the people who count, and they will understand.

Dadsadventure.com points out in the article “Connecting With Your Child before Birth”: “It may seem surreal at first, but as you track your tiny progeny’s growth and development, he becomes real enough to talk to, and if you do, he will recognize your voice after birth.” The article includes a wonderful testimonial from Julie, a former nurse in the newborn nursery:

After the birth, a baby is usually scared, screaming, flailing around. . . . I would carry the baby into the newborn nursery, start checking his vital signs, etc., and the monitor would show a high heart rate, elevated blood pressure, rapid respirations, all of which reflect how stressed he is. . . . Then I’d see the baby’s father hanging around, often not sure what to do, also looking a little stressed and unsure of his surroundings. So I would say, “Come over here, stand right here next to your baby, and just start talking to your son.” . . . Remarkably, once the baby heard his father’s gentle voice, he would calm down, his body would relax and find rest, he’d become very quiet. The baby’s heart would stop racing, his respirations would calm down. This little newborn child would often strain to turn his head towards “that voice,” blinking through the bright lights, instinctively trying to “see” the voice that he knew so well.

1st-time-fathers.com provides another dad’s testimonial in “Bonding—Talk and Sing to Your Baby”:

On the day our first child was born, I had already been talking and singing to her when she was in her mother’s womb. The familiarity of my voice to her took almost immediate effect the day she was born. . . . The nurse carried her into the room and she was crying. My wife was too tired from labour to tend to her. . . . Man, I was terrified! . . . When I picked her up, she was still crying but the moment I spoke to her, she stopped crying as if she recognized something; you could tell she was listening. And you know what? Your wife will rave about how you are able to stop your child’s crying to everyone. My wife did and that does make me feel proud.

Read aloud for even greater bonding!

Numerous studies have shown that babies in utero can recognize and remember stories read aloud to them, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy. Newborns then respond to those same stories, especially read in the familiar voices they heard from the womb. And they show a preference for words with rhythm and rhyme. This opens up a whole world of language you can share with your little one—now and after she’s born.

So celebrate Father’s Day early, Daddy-to-Be! Find the books you really enjoy reading, like a bouncy, silly Dr. Seuss or a clever Shel Silverstein. On top of bonding with your baby, you’ll be helping to develop early language skills and establishing a special reading time that can continue for years to come.

And hey, you’ll be entertaining Mom at the same time!

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