Imagine making your baby in the womb feel that you are always there with him. Wouldn’t he be very happy? And what if the baby responded to your touch?
Experiencing the baby’s kicks is like a reassurance about the life growing inside you. And your baby responding to your touch feels like heaven. According to a study by a few researchers from the University of Dundee, UK, babies in the womb respond to their mother’s touch. Babies tend to touch their faces or clasp hands as the mothers touch their belly or abdomen.
From previous studies, it was clear that babies respond to music in various ways. Even though the mother’s heartbeat is a constant symphony to them, they can pick up other sounds from around. It is also known that the babies’ ability to listen and respond to sounds improves their auditory skills and aids in mental development.
The University of Dundee study was conducted on 23 pregnant women who were between their 21st and 33rd week of pregnancy. They were tested under Touch, Voice, and Control (the three conditions) to record the response from their babies.
Under the condition Voice, the researchers required the women to read out aloud to their babies either “The Three Little Pigs” or “Jack and the Beanstalk”. In Touch, mothers stroked and rubbed their bellies like they usually do. During the Control condition, mothers simply left their hands free.
The results confirmed that babies responded more to the touch than just the music. The babies touched their arms, legs, and mouth in response to their mothers’ touch. The movements of the babies were restricted when they heard only their mothers’ voices. Older babies responded better to the sense of touch as compared to the younger ones. Babies in their third trimester also yawned and crossed their arms.
However, the younger babies in the study responded at an earlier pregnancy stage than any other documented study.
The researchers say: “In summary, the results from this study suggest that fetuses selectively respond to external stimulation earlier than previously reported, fetuses actively regulate their behaviors as a response to the external stimulation, and that fetal maturation affects the emergence of such differential responses to the environment.”
As the researchers did not study the babies’ response to any other person (including father and siblings), it was not conclusive about the babies’ response to anyone other than the mother.
While there could be excited relatives who want to touch the mother’s belly, it might just freak the baby out, leaving him to wonder what the new sensation was. And as studies are not around to show or ascertain how the response may be, it is best to avoid rubbing mothers’ bellies unnecessarily.