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34 WEEKS, 4 DAYS

38 days to go...

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ultrasound of human fetus at 34 weeks and 4 days

Your baby today

This 2D ultrasound has captured the moment that the baby is sucking his thumb. Your baby is gradually learning to coordinate this complex activity with breathing movements even though surrounded not by air but by the amniotic fluid.

Inside the uterus your baby is already practicing the suckling reflex, which will enable him to feed when he's born.

The suckling reflex is present earlier in pregnancy but it is known from assessing premature babies that it's usually not until around this time that the baby is strong and coordinated enough to suckle with ease. Your baby regularly practices suckling and this, in combination with the rooting reflex, will enable your baby to feed.

After birth you will see the rooting reflex as your baby turns toward anything that strokes his cheek. The head will turn, and your baby will move his mouth in a series of gradually diminishing circles until the object is found. Once feeding is well established, at about four months, the rooting reflex disappears. From this point on, your baby has much more control over the process, able to turn and directly latch on to the nipple.

While in the uterus, there is no chance of your baby accidentally swallowing amniotic fluid into the lungs. The lungs are already filled with fluid and the high pressure of this, together with your baby's larynx, keeps out amniotic fluid. After birth, babies have a series of reflexes designed to keep breathing and drinking separate. To help with feeding, babies always breathe through their nose.

Ask A... Doctor

My mom has offered to stay with us after the birth. Is this a good idea?

Some couples prefer to get to know their baby on their own, taking the first few days to settle in and get used to the idea of being new parents. It's also good to try to do things your own way when it comes to caring for your newborn. Having said that, you'll find an extra pair of hands invaluable.

It really depends on your relationship with your mom: if it's good and you feel she'll be supportive, then it's more likely to help than hinder. However, gently establish some guidelines-namely that while you welcome her help, you'd like to do things your way and have space to bond with your baby. Encourage your mom toward helping around the house, rather than just with the baby, not least so that your partner doesn't feel excluded at this important time.

Are you ready for the baby?

You may find that you soon become too tired to shop. Try to buy items gradually, but there are certain things that it's worthwhile purchasing by around 37 weeks, just in case you go into labor. First, buy those small baby-care items you'll need right after the birth (see Buying for your baby) plus a car seat and a Moses basket or crib. You won't need a carriage immediately after the birth.

If going out shopping becomes difficult in late pregnancy, consider buying some items online.

Pregnant woman ordering from catalogue

By this stage of pregnancy you may not feel up to spending hours shopping for equipment and clothes for the baby. You can save a lot of time by getting catalogues from the major stores and making some preliminary decisions from the comfort of your armchair.

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Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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