June marks the fourth national awareness month for the thought-provoking campaign, Routine in The Womb. Developed by Angela Spencer, the compelling movement focuses this year on #movementsmatter, and aims to educate expectant mums on the importance of being mindful about their unborn baby’s movements while they are in the womb. Angela is the award-winning author of ‘Babyopathy – Relaxed Mum, Contented Baby!’ and has over 25 years’ experience working with children. We had a chance to catch up with her to find out about this year’s campaign and why #movementsmatter.
Tell us all about this year’s ‘Routine in The Womb’ campaign.
Well, it became apparent with the pregnant mums I was working with that no one was talking about baby movements anymore, and my mums were worried and always had questions. Through all of my research in to the baby’s sensory journey in the womb, I knew that babies developed a pattern of movement and rest usually dependent on their mum’s routine throughout the day, and so counting kicks seemed counterproductive from a wellbeing point of view. What mums need to be told is that understanding their own baby’s pattern of movement and rest over 24 hours is the best way to ensure everything is progressing smoothly.
At what point during pregnancy do we need to pay attention to movement?
No matter what stage you are at in your pregnancy, I am encouraging women to start paying attention to their baby’s Routine in the Womb this June. Our campaign hashtag #movementsmatter encourages mums-to-be to spend time sitting down paying attention to their baby’s movements – it’s never too late to start paying attention to baby’s routine.
With most first pregnancies, we tend to feel first flutterings around 17 weeks and these progress over the next 6-8 weeks as definitive movements, although quite randomly. By 24 weeks of pregnancy those movements will have formed a much more definitive pattern of movement and rest, unique to each baby – don’t compare your baby’s movements with another as that can just add to worry! Feeling movements can depend on the placement of the placenta but most mums will be able to recognize their baby’s own routine in the womb.
Why is it important to keep track of movements and how is this campaign different to Count the Kicks?
Count the Kicks focuses on recording a certain number of movement by a certain time of each day. However, babies don’t kick at regular intervals, most will have patterns of movement and times of rest and so many mums would be worrying unnecessarily if they hadn’t felt 10 kicks by lunch time for example.
Our campaign empowers mums to connect with their baby. First by learning their baby’s routine in the womb so that they can feel positive in the wellbeing of their pregnancy, but also by showing them how to encourage their baby’s first conscious sensory connections, which baby experiences from around 24 weeks. Research tells us that new parents feel more disconnected from their babies than ever, with more and more finding it difficult to bond with their baby during their first year. By connecting with their baby in the womb through their sensory journey, we encourage their bond from the very beginning. The NHS website now also recommends that mums ‘feel the routine’.
What’s a ‘typical’ day-in-the-life of a baby in the womb – what should we expect?
Well that’s the fun part, there is no ‘typical’. Every baby is unique.
We know that a baby’s routine in the womb is in response to the mum’s own day-to-day routine. As every mum is different, so is every baby. Some babies will be lulled to sleep by you rushing around, whereas others will do summersaults in response to the hormones. So, the key is knowing your baby’s reactions to your usual routine and in turn their unique patterns. The only general rule is sometimes the baby will be active and sometimes they will be resting!
How much time does a baby spend sleeping?
There is no definitive answer to that question, other than as much time as the individual baby needs! Every baby is different and from newborn the best ‘one suits all’ answer I can give is that generally, a newborn will sleep more than they are awake!
Is it possible to wake baby up with a cold drink / ice-lolly?
When mums are worried they haven’t felt movement for a while there are a few things that a midwife would suggest. First of all, stop and take a breath as quite often we instantly start worrying and that can release hormones that make baby ‘go quiet,’ So, by just taking a breath and relaxing we can take time to think without adding stress to the baby.
Sometimes babies go quiet because you have changed your routine and that’s ok, but if you are worried you can try a cold drink or eat a snack as our bodies make a lot of noise in there when processing food. Or you could get up and have a dance, or have a bath, whatever would normally make your baby move around. If none of that works or you’re still worried then do speak to your midwife or health professional. Trust your instincts, don’t leave it!
What do babies respond to in the womb? i.e. noises etc
Babies can respond to different sensory stimulation. For example, bright light through your womb can make baby turn away. They can taste and smell through the amniotic fluid and they love to move so you can connect with them through massaging your belly or ‘playing’ in reaction to their kicks by gently poking back or rubbing the foot under your ribs!
However, one of the best ways to communicate with your baby in the womb is through sound. You can talk to them, sing favourite songs or read them a favourite children’s book. They will recognize the familiar tones and patterns of your voice when they are born! Amazing isn’t it?
How can one nurture a baby’s routine in the womb, to be a routine to follow from the moment they are born?
Well, it’s not guaranteed, but your baby responds to the hormones you produce and so, especially in the last 6-8 weeks, if you nurture a routine that is active during the day with regular rest patterns (you will need the rest too!) and a relaxing bedtime routine, your baby will begin to react to the hormones you produce and will likely follow suit. Of course, there are always exceptions and some babies will just do exactly what they want to do and there’s nothing you can do about it – that’s ok too!
Does a baby learn / adopt your routine when they’re in the womb – i.e. early to bed, early to rise? Bad sleeping? … and replicate that in their own patterns once born?
A baby can be influenced by the routine you follow during the last few weeks but you have to remember, a baby will need feeding either on demand or at least every 3 hours by breast or bottle and so a lot depends on keeping a routine through the first weeks of their life. You don’t have to be rigid as it is important if baby is hungry, they are fed, if they need to sleep, they can and if they need comfort, they get it.
However, what you can do is show them the difference from the very beginning between night and day as that will help them settle much quicker. Keep the room dark at night and use just a nightlight, you only need to wake them if they are reaching 3 hours in between a feed, interact as little as possible at night and put them back to sleep in the same cot or crib. During the day, let there be light! You can interact and talk to them as much as possible, let them feed when they want and I am a big fan of baby-wearing during the day, you and your baby will benefit! This will help them find a routine much faster, you do have to remember, every baby is unique though so don’t compare with anyone else, just accept this is what your baby needs at the time.
Is it possible to predict how well a baby will sleep from her movements in the womb?
It’s not so much their pattern of movements that influences how well a baby will sleep. What’s more likely to have an influence is how relaxed mum is, especially during the last trimester. When a mum is rushing around and stressed, they produce cortisol (the stress hormone) and that can have an effect on the baby in the womb, which is another part we are highlighting in our campaign. Our aim is to ensure mum is relaxed, which in turn should mean a content baby!
What’s your opinion on home foetal dopplers? I know most midwives hate them, but surely they are reassuring in the early stages at least? I know I bought one and successfully heard a heartbeat!
I personally don’t like them for relying on everything being OK. They’re fine to share the experience of hearing the heartbeat with friends and family but shouldn’t be used from a wellbeing point of view if you have any concerns. A heartbeat can be misread or misheard with a home doppler as we are not trained to know exactly what we are listening for, and so if a mum has any concerns then the best person to speak to is their midwife or health professional.