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There is nothing quite as magnetic as a pregnant belly. People are just drawn to it. We can’t keep our hands off our own bellies while we’re pregnant, and as almost every mother out there can attest, neither can anyone else.


We have all had the experience of a family member, co-worker or random dude on the subway placing their hand on our bellies like it’s nothing. Like it is the most normal thing in the world for a total stranger to see you and think, “Wow, she has a really large uterus. I’m going to touch it.”

And it’s weird every time.

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Women have varying degrees of responses to it, of course. Some women are okay with family members and partners doing it but not co-workers or strangers, while some flat-out don’t want to be touched and have an almost visceral physical reaction to it.

It goes without saying that wherever you are on that spectrum is completely fine. There is nothing wrong with having strong feelings about people touching your body, obviously.

But why is this such a universal phenomenon?

Why people want to touch your belly

There are a few time-honored, research-based, evolutionary truths: Humans are social creatures, and a species’ primary evolutionary goal is to continue said species. Pregnant women are the essence of these truths, combined.

Being social has been key to survival since the dawn of time. Before the advent of grocery stores and Amazon.com, if you didn’t have a community to help you get food, find and build shelter, and fight off danger, you likely were not going to make it. (PS—research has found that that’s why we crave other people’s approval so strongly. If the village didn’t like you, you were out, which likely didn’t bode well for you. This could explain why we check back to see how many people “liked” our most recent Instagram post so much. We need to be liked.)

People have a deeply seeded need for community—and who better to commune with than the women who are continuing the species? We feel this protective, nurturing sense of connection with women we have never met because somewhere in our brains we know it is better for all of us if she and her child do well.

But why the rubbing?

We do not know when language first began, though experts estimate that it was perhaps 100,000 years ago . But we lived in social groups way before then—and had to communicate somehow. Enter the importance of touch.

Psychologist Matthew Hertenstein conducted a study in 2009 in which he asked participants to communicate an emotion just using touch—they would touch a stranger’s arm, and the stranger had to ascertain which emotion they were trying to convey. Hertenstein estimated that the correct guesses would be low because we live in a society where touching others is frowned upon. Instead, he found that 78% of people were able to accurately determine “anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness.”

Touch is the core of communication. We are hardwired to touch. It’s why, when a friend is upset, you instinctively reach out and touch her shoulder. It’s why we kiss our partners, and it’s definitely (one of the many, many reasons) why we kiss our babies. Touch communicates in a way that language can’t.

So the lady at Target who just starts touching your belly almost can’t help it. I certainly have caught myself reaching out for a belly without even thinking about it. It’s our human way of communicating all of the emotions that come up when we see a pregnant woman—excitement, hope, happiness and the urge to protect.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Why it bothers you so much

Your body, your body, your body. That doesn’t stop being a thing when you are pregnant, even if you are growing a new member of the village.

No one should ever dare to touch your body without your permission when you’re not pregnant—nothing changes when you are.

Your instincts are also kicking into high gear. You haven’t met your baby yet, but you are already a mama bear whose innate impulse is to protect your cub. So when someone comes toward that cub, even the sweet lady at Target, your body goes into fight or flight. Our social learning over time usually prevents us from acting aggressively toward them, but you can’t change how it makes you feel.

If you don’t want someone to touch your body, they shouldn’t touch your body. End of discussion.

And remember, the law is on your side. Bridgette Dunlap wrote that “It is...illegal to touch a person without consent in every state, pregnant or not. That this isn’t common knowledge is a big problem with far-reaching implications for women.”

So know that, chances are, people reach out for a belly-rub from a place of genuine concern and compassion, but your acceptance or rejection of that rub is completely valid, and needs to be respected.

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Our babies come out as beautiful, soft and natural as can be—shouldn't their clothes follow suit?

Here are nine of our favorite organic kids clothing brands that prove safe fabrics + stylish designs are a natural fit.

Estella

A brick and mortar store in Manhattan that opened in 2002, Estella is NYC's go-to shop for luxury baby gifts—from sweet-as-pie organic clothing to eco-friendly toys.

L'ovedbaby

@lovedbaby

We l'oved this collection from the moment we laid eyes on it. (See what we did there 🤣) Free of things harsh added chemicals, dangerous flame retardants, and harmful dyes, this collection is 100% organic and 100% gorgeous. We especially adore their soft, footed rompers, comfy cotton joggers, and newborn-friendly kimono bodysuits.

Looking to stock up? Don't miss Big-Find Thursday every week on their site—a 24-hour flash sale that happens Thursdays at 9 a.m. PST and features a different body style, collection, and discount every week!

Hanna Andersson

@happyhannas

One of our all-time favorite brands for durability, style, + customer service, Hanna Andersson doesn't disappoint in the organic department, either. From an aww-inducing organic baby layette collection all the way to their iconic pajamas, there are so many organic styles to swoon over from this beloved brand. And we swear their pajamas are magic—they seem to grow with your little one, fitting season after season!

Monica + Andy

@monicaandandy

The fabric you first snuggle your baby in matters. Monica + Andy's (gorgeous) collection is designed for moms and babies by moms with babies, and we love it all because it's made of super-soft GOTS-certified organic cotton that's free of chemicals, lead, and phthalates. Newborn pieces feature thoughtful details like fold-over mittens and feet.

Finn + Emma

@finnandemma

"Here boring designs and toxic chemicals are a thing of the past while modern colors, fresh prints and heirloom quality construction are abundant." We couldn't agree more. Made from 100% organic cotton, eco friendly dyes, and in fair trade settings, we love this modern collection's mix of style + sustainability.

We especially love the Basics Collection, an assortment of incredibly soft, beautiful apparel + accessories including bodysuits, zip footies, pants, hats, and bibs, all available in a gender-neutral color palette that can work together to create multiple outfit combinations. The pieces are perfect for monochrome looks or for mixing with prints for a more modern style.

SoftBaby

@littleaddigrey for @softbaby_clothes

You'll come for SoftBaby's organic fabrics, but you'll stay for their adorable assortment of prints. From woodland foxes to urban pugs, there's no limit to their assortment (meaning you'll even be able to find something for the new mama who's hard to shop for). Plus, the name says it all--these suckers are soft. Get ready for some serious cuddle time.

Gap Baby

@gapkids

Organic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Gap, but this popular brand actually carries a wide variety of organic (and adorable) baby + toddler clothes. From newborn layette basics to toddler sleepwear—and more—there's something for everyone in this collection. Everything is 100% cotton, super soft + cozy, and perfect for eco-conscious mamas.

Winter Water Factory

@winterwaterfactory

Certified organic cotton with Brooklyn-based swagger? Be still our hearts. Winter Water Factory features screen-printed textiles in bold designs you'll want to show off (get ready for some major Instagram likes). And the husband-and-wife co-founders keep sustainability at the forefront of their brand, meaning you can feel good about your purchase--and what you're putting on your baby.

The company makes everything from kids' clothes to crib sheets (all made in the USA). For even more cuteness, pair their signature rompers with a hat or bonnet.

Under the Nile

@underthenile

Under the Nile has been making organic baby clothes since before it was cool. Seriously, they were the first baby clothing company in the USA to be certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard. They've kept up that legacy of high standards by growing their Egyptian cotton on a biodynamic farm without the use of pesticides or insecticides, and all of their prints are made with metal-free colors and no chemical finishes.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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