Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Bonding with your baby during pregnancy

5-minute read

You don't need to wait until your baby is born to bond with them. Pregnancy can be the perfect time to start forming an attachment with your baby, which is very important for their development once your baby has actually arrived.

What might babies experience in the womb?


At around week 18 of your pregnancy, your baby will begin to hear the sounds of your body, such as your heartbeat and your stomach rumbling. At 26 weeks, a baby may react to noises both inside and outside the mother’s body, and may be soothed by the sound of her voice.

The outside noise your baby hears inside the uterus is about half the volume we hear. However, unborn babies may still startle and cry if exposed to a sudden loud noise.

Language development

After 32 weeks, your baby may start to recognise certain vowel sounds from your language. Some research suggests that very early language development may begin before birth.


As well as remembering certain sounds from their mother’s language, babies may remember certain music played to them in the womb.


Unborn babies’ retinas are developed at 20 weeks, and they open their eyes and can see light from 22 weeks. However, babies’ eyes continue to develop after they are born.


After around 18 weeks, babies like to sleep in the womb while their mother is awake, since movement can rock them to sleep. They can feel pain at 22 weeks, and at 26 weeks they can move in response to a hand being rubbed on the mother’s belly.

Ways to bond with your baby during pregnancy

Here are some things that might help you and your baby to start forming an attachment before birth.

  • Talk and sing to your baby, knowing he or she can hear you.
  • Gently touch and rub your belly, or massage it.
  • Respond to your baby’s kicks. In the last trimester, you can gently push against the baby or rub your belly where the kick occurred and see if there is a response.
  • Play music to your baby. Music that mimics a heartbeat of around 60 beats per minute, such as lullabies, is useful. You can also search online for relaxing or calming music.
  • Give yourself time to reflect, go for a walk or have a warm bath and think about the baby. You may like to write a diary or stories to the baby about what you are experiencing.
  • Have an ultrasound. Seeing your baby moving inside the womb can be a poignant experience for parents, and can help them to bond with the baby since it can suddenly seem ‘real’.
  • Relax, look after yourself and try not to stress. Evidence shows that if a mother feels less stressed during her pregnancy, the health outcome for the baby is better. Your partner or a close friend may be helpful if you need someone to talk to.

How dads and caregivers can bond with the baby

If you are the baby’s father or other significant caregiver, here are some things you can do to help you become attached to the unborn baby.

  • Massage the baby bump if the baby’s mother is happy for you to do so.
  • Feel the baby kicking as often as you can.
  • Attend ultrasound appointments with the mother.
  • If you’re planning to be a support person at the birth, go to the prenatal classes, as well. Understand and discuss the birth plan with the baby’s mother and meet the maternity team. The more confidence you have in the pregnancy and birth process, the easier it will be for you to bond with the baby.
  • Read and talk with the baby so they get used to your voice.
  • Talk to other parents. Share your thoughts and feelings, and allow them to share theirs about their pregnancy and birth experience.

Older siblings can bond too

By preparing your toddler or child for the upcoming birth, you can help them to bond with the baby. This may involve talking to them about the baby, reading stories about pregnancy and babies, allowing them to touch your belly to feel the baby kicking, and preparing a gift together for the baby.

You could involve your child in preparation for the birth by taking them shopping for baby supplies or setting up the nursery. Your child may also like to put a piece of their art on the wall of the baby’s room.

Your feelings and the baby

You may find that instead of being excited about the birth of your baby, you are feeling stressed and confused. Your feelings during pregnancy can affect the baby too. For example, if you are feeling stressed, the baby’s heart rate will respond to this and potentially increase.

Talk to someone about your feelings and ask questions when you see your maternity team. Try to increase your support network and meet other expectant mums to share your experiences. Try to look after your own health and wellbeing, and make sure you get enough rest and relaxation.

If you have had a mental health issue before, or you are experiencing feelings that differ from those you usually have, you should visit your doctor as soon as you can. A range of treatments can help, including psychological therapy and certain antidepressants that can be used safely during pregnancy for moderate to severe depression. Your doctor will tell you which ones are safe or suggest another way to help you.

If you were already taking an antidepressant before you became pregnant, your doctor may advise you to stay on the antidepressant. You and your doctor may decide this is the most effective way to help your baby get the best start in life and it may give you the best chance of bonding with your baby.

Where to go for help

  • Talk to your doctor, child health nurse or midwife.
  • Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse.
  • Find a parenting helpline that suits you here.
  • Call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

Bonding With Your Baby During Pregnancy | HealthEngine Blog

Bonding with a baby during pregnancy refers to a process through which a pregnant woman experiences feelings and emotions for her foetus, interacts with her foetus and develops a maternal identity during pregnancy.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Bonding with your baby

Some parents find it easy to bond with their newborn baby, others find it takes more time. Learn here how attachment occurs and how to strengthen that bond.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Bonding with newborns & babies: pictures | Raising Children Network

Bonding with babies is about smiling, cuddling, massage, singing, talking, reading and playing. See how to bond with your baby in our illustrated guide.

Read more on website

Breastfeeding Advice For Newborn Babies | Tresillian

When establishing breastfeeding good positioning and attachment are key. Here are some tips from Tresillian to help your breastfeed your newborn.

Read more on Tresillian website

Bonding with your kids | Support For Fathers

Bonding with your kids. Support For Fathers, Fatherhood and Family Relationship Support. Relationships Australia Victoria RAV. Fatherhood Resources Library.

Read more on Support for Fathers website

Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, providing all the nutrition your baby needs during the first six months of life and a loving bond with your baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Oral Health and Pregnancy - Australian Dental Association

Maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is important in ensuring whole-body health and the health of your unborn baby.

Read more on website

Dads: premature birth and premature babies | Raising Children Network

After a premature birth, it can be hard for dads. Our dads guide to premature babies and birth covers feelings, bonding, and getting involved with your baby.

Read more on website

Emotional health for parents during pregnancy and after the birth

When you are pregnant, your baby is exposed to everything you experience. This includes the sounds in the environment, the air you breathe, the food you eat and the emotions you feel. When you feel happy and calm, it allows your baby to develop in a happy, calm environment. However, emotions like stress and anxiety can increase particular hormones in your body, which can affect your baby’s developing body and brain.

Read more on WA Health website

Baby movements during pregnancy

Every baby is unique and it is important for you to get to know your baby’s movement patterns.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.