It’s the subject that has got the nation talking: why does Meghan constantly cradle her bump? Here we identify the different types of embrace… and ask experts to explain why they think she does it.
The top and toe hold: With one hand at the top of the bump and the other at the bottom, as shown at a fashion awards ceremony (left) and on a charity visit in London in November (right)
IT’S LIKE THOSE IRRITATING BABY ON BOARD SIGNS
Liz Jones, MoS columnist
Sometimes it’s a single-handed cupping. At the British Fashion Awards last month, it was a smug encircling, causing much opprobrium – ‘You’re pregnant. We KNOW!’ – on Twitter.
Not since Demi Moore was naked on the cover of Vanity Fair has a mum-to-be stirred such ire. Is the gesture a signal to everyone in the room (Harry, the Queen, minions) to treat her like cut glass? Does she not want to be accused of spending even more money on bigger coats that do up, so is opting to leave her existing coat open instead?
Personally, I find the cradling a bit like those signs in the back of cars: Baby on Board. Virtue signalling, as though the rest of us barren harridans deserve to burn alive in our cars.
I do wonder what is to come once Meghan begins to breastfeed… will she milk it for all she’s worth?
Cradling the regal bump: When visiting Birkenhead this month, left, Tonga in October (left) and at the Royal Variety Performance in November (right)
SHE’S BUILDING A BOND WITH THE BABY… IT’s JUST BIOLOGY
Katharine Graves, hypnobirthing expert
Cradling a bump is something that’s hardwired into women from a biological perspective.
Women are instinctively drawn to touching their babies because, even when they’re in the womb, it produces a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is known as the bonding hormone, but it also affects the strength of your contractions in labour.
The more oxytocin in your system, the stronger your contractions will be, which can lead to an easier birth. Placing your hands on your bump comforts the baby, comforts you, and helps create the optimum conditions for labour.
DUCHESS OF SHOWBIZ IS JUST SEEKING A PHOTO OP
Jo Elvin, Editor of You Magazine
I’ve tried not to find it annoying, but I’m sorry, it just is. A casual cradling of one’s bump is to be expected. It’s new, it’s exciting and there really is nothing like feeling that thing kick and jump around in there.
But Meghan’s positioning is always so fixed into one singular, rigid pose that it’s becoming uncomfortable to watch. I’m getting arm aches just looking. It’s all very Baby Bump Barbie.
Kinder people would point to an excited new mother’s natural, unconditional love already blossoming. True enough, in which case I hope its sibling isn’t far behind, or that poor kid’s clearly in for a smothering.
But come on, this is the Duchess of Showbiz we have here. It smacks to me of a focus that’s contrived and relentlessly photo-op ready. Meghan would be well advised to take the ‘world’s only pregnant woman!’ vibes down a notch or two.
Talk to the bump! The Duchess seems to be including the baby in her conversations in London this month (right) and last month (left)
A WOMAN SHOWING A NEW-FOUND RESERVE
Harry Witchel, body language expert
Meghan tends to cup her bump by knitting her fingers together – a sign of holding back and being more grounded.
That’s quite a contrast to her usual behaviour, which involves dealing with the world with gusto. As a Royal she is expected to be more reserved, so is this a subconscious attempt to be so?
This doesn’t look like acting. This looks like a woman aware of a change in her body.
The handbag shield: Meghan covers the bump with her clutch bag in in Fiji
Ultimate Accessory: Meghan covers the bump with her handbag in London this month (right) and in October (left)
A SIGN OF HER DELIGHT AT BEING PREGNANT
Alexandra Shulman, Mos columnist
A lot of women feel comforted by touching their baby bump but Meghan appears to indulge more than most.
It happened even before she had a discernible bump, and I imagine some of this is because she is so delighted to be pregnant. Possibly, at 37, she wasn’t sure it would happen so quickly.
But there may be another story. All Royals have a method of preventing their arms from flailing around in a chaotic fashion when they are out and about. Meghan is using her bump as a way to keep her hands calm, while showing how protective she is.
SHE LOOKS AS DEMURE AS THE VIRGIN MARY
Alison Jackson, photographer
Meghan’s arms framing the bump very clearly shows that she is pregnant, rather than just looking large. I think she’s also very consciously making the effort to break up the solid colour of her outfits.
After years as an actress, she’ll be very aware of camera angles and how to work them, and how to create flattering shapes with her body.
I also think she resembles the image of the Virgin Mary: demure and regal, carrying the most precious cargo. She’s definitely very pleased with herself about that.
Photographer Alison Jackson says Meghan’s arms framing the bump very clearly shows that she is pregnant
IGNORE THE BACKLASH, THIS IS A BIG POSITIVE
Julianne Boutaleb, psycholgist
It’s interesting to see such a backlash against a woman who is interacting with her bump in this way. But I see it as a very positive thing. It indicates a good attachment to the unborn baby.
I work with a lot of women who struggle to develop a bond with their child, whether due to difficulty conceiving, miscarriage, or birth trauma. But a woman who is cradling her bump is showing that she’s very engaged, both emotionally and physically, with her unborn child.
Psychologist Julianne Boutaleb sees it as a very positive thing and it indicates a good attachment to the unborn baby
IT’S MEGHAN’S CLOAK OF INVULNERABILITY
Linda Kelsey, former editor of Cosmopolitan
Everyone else constantly paws you when you’re pregnant, so why shouldn’t Meghan take things into her own hands? Personally, I’ve never felt as strong and invulnerable as when my belly was ballooning.
I would march into meetings with my doctor, feeling nothing he could say could burst my sense of well-being. And in case he missed the point I’d cradle my belly for added effect.
Meghan has had a hard time of it lately with attacks on a number of fronts. But when you’re pregnant and loving it nothing else really matters.
Every time she cradles her bump, it’s a case of you and me against the world, babe – and she’s rocking it.
IF THIS IS HER ACTING, IT’s A MASSIVE CLICHE
Dee Cannon, acting coach
When you’re teaching an actor to ‘play’ pregnant, the preparation involves holding the back. Cradling the bump is not really something you’d ask an actor to do – it’s such a demonstrative gesture that it could be seen as a cliche.
So when a woman is doing that in real life, you can choose to interpret it in either a positive or a negative way – either it’s a subconscious, instinctive, nurturing, maternal gesture, or they’re proud and overly protective.
Acting coach Dee Cannon says cradling the bump is not really something you’d ask an actor to do – it’s such a demonstrative gesture that it could be seen as a cliche
WHAT’S SO UNNATURAL IN LOVING YOUR BUMP?
Bonita Turner, editor of Junior Magazine
I imagine it’s reassuring for Meghan to put her hands on her baby. I don’t think she’s doing it to show off, and I imagine that people saying that have never been pregnant. It’s natural to be proud of your bump. You only have it for nine months and it is quite special.
CONSTANT STROKING IS HELPING BABY LEARN
Tamara Bugembe, paediatrician
WE HAVE known for a long time that babies respond to voices and sounds from outside the womb, and they also move their arms, head and mouths more when the bump was stroked. Some babies would reach out and touch the walls of the uterus.
Touching your bump is good for the baby’s development. Meghan may not know it, but her constant stroking and rubbing is helping develop the baby’s co-ordination and movements.
A POSITIVE SIGN SHE LOVES HER NEW BODY
Holli Rubin, body image expert
Some women love how they look when pregnant. Others hate it. A woman’s body image pre-pregnancy very much influences how she feels, looks and presents herself. When we feel good in ourselves, we tend to present ourselves in a very different way to when we don’t – and putting your hand on the bump in this way is a positive sign.
Body image expert Holli Rubin says putting your hand on the bump in this way is a positive sign
MAKING THE MOST OF HER NEW SHAPE
Renee Rispin, stylist & blogger
Some women find it hard to make the most of their changing body shape and hide their bumps – but Meghan isn’t one of them.
Choosing to wear striking colours such as the purple dress and red coat she wore on a recent visit to Birkenhead is a clear message that not only does she want to show off her bump, but also that being pregnant doesn’t mean she’s taken her finger off the fashion pulse.
SHE LOVES TO SHOW THAT SHE’S A ‘FAT LADY’
Katie Nicholl, royal author
Having observed Meghan on official engagements, her bump patting seems to be second nature – it’s her new prop.
It’s endearing, but a little distracting. I think she genuinely feels a connection with what Harry calls ‘our little bump’ and cradling her tummy is instinctive and protective.
Even when she’s wearing a coat, Meghan flicks it to one side so her tummy is on show.
I’ve loved the way she’s not been afraid to display her bump. She took no offence when she was called a ‘fat lady’ by a well-meaning member of the public at a recent outing, laughing: ‘I’ll take it.’
Royal author Katie Nicholl says Meghan took no offence when she was called a ‘fat lady’ by a well-meaning member of the public