Ever since Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced that they are expecting their first child in the spring, the royal mom-to-be can’t keep her hands off her baby bump.
In the weeks following the exciting news as the couple toured Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, Meghan was spotted constantly cradling her belly – even when a bump was barely visible. She lovingly placed her hands on her stomach during a visit on Bondi Beach in Sydney and cupped her bump during a stroll with Harry on Australia’s Fraser Island. The Duchess of Sussex even assumed the position while posing for a candid photo taken by her royal husband in New Zealand.
During Meghan’s surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards this week, she highlighted her growing bump further by cupping it with both hands – one on top of her belly and the other beneath – leading some fans to wonder why.
“I think it shows that she really cares for her baby, and that’s terrific,” Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrician gynecologist who teaches at Yale University and is part of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, tells PEOPLE.
However, the notion that “bump cradling” is medically beneficial to the child — leading to speculation that Meghan is holding her belly for that reason — is not evidence-based.
“There really isn’t a lot of data showing that touching the belly really calms the baby,” Dr. Minkin says.
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Georgia Rose of Village Maternity in New York City, a midwife who had her own practice for over two decades and also taught at her alma mater, Columbia University, tells PEOPLE that moms-to-be touching their bellies is a “beautiful thing.”
She notes that studies have shown that babies respond to their mother’s voice while in the womb, and it’s likely that they also acknowledge touch.
Rose also proposes that Meghan may be cradling her stomach unconsciously, just as a mother may pat her child’s head or squeeze their hand while focusing on another task.
“This is a totally normal thing that mothers do, and they do it instinctively and naturally,” she explains.
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Kate Middleton recently opened up about Meghan’s baby news for the first time during her visit with Prince William to Leicester University. When a fan asked if she was excited about the royal family’s new addition, Kate immediately responded: “Absolutely!”
“It’s such a special time to have little kiddies,” she shared. “And a cousin for George and Charlotte, as well, and Louis. It’ll be really special.”
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