When we think about the moment we become a parent we usually visualize the moment of birth. Becoming a parent really begins with conception. From the moment you discover you are pregnant you begin to think and act like the parent your are. You find yourself running every thought and action through the "How will this affect my baby?" filter and make your decisions accordingly. The natural hormones of early pregnancy actually cause a protective attitude toward that tiny little baby growing inside you causing you to shy away from things that might harm your baby such as, drugs, alcohol, extreme physical activity, etc.
Prenatal parenting means taking care of yourself so that your baby has the best chance of growing strong and healthy. This includes feeding yourself well, extra vitamins and supplements, getting good exercise and plenty of fluids. I am sure you could not imagine yourself not feeding your baby a healthy diet once he is born. But the fact is, you are a parent now and you need to feed your baby a healthy diet now while you are pregnant. Babies who do not get adequate nutrition in the womb will be more likely to come early.
You need at least 500 extra calories a day while growing a baby. Most women will gain between 25-35 lbs. while pregnant, so pregnancy is not the time to diet.
Exercising is another way to parent prenatally. When you are in good shape your body works well and is able to support a growing baby well. Your body will be able to be more efficient in getting oxygen to your baby. Walking and swimming are two of the best prenatal exercises. In general, when you are exercising prenatally you should be able to hold a conversation without panting and huffing during exercise. If you are unable to do that you should slow things down a bit.
Bonding with your baby is a great prenatal parenting skill. Some creative ways to bond with your baby while in the womb:
read to your baby
rub your belly and "play" with your baby as you talk to her
listen to music together
Making prenatal decisions with your caregiver is one of the first official parenting decisions you will make. Be informed and ask questions before you make a decision regarding yourself or your baby during pregnancy. Remember, you are the parent and you should be the one making decisions for your child. The decisions you make during pregnancy can possibly affect your child for the rest of his life. Take responsibility as the parent and practice informed consent.
Parenting is a great adventure that begins with conception. Enjoy the journey!