It's only natural for a new mum to be stressed and anxious about her baby and its health. But while stress might be making things difficult for the mom, it can affect the baby too. A new study found that women who opt for breastfeeding relaxation therapy can help their babies eat more. This happens because the women who receive this therapy are a lot less likely to be stressed.
Nurul Husna Mold Shukri, lead author of the study and an infant nutrition specialist said that most women who go to support groups or get one-on-one help from lactation experts still struggle to breastfeed and this is mostly due to stress. Normally, women are recommended to exclusively breastfeed their infants for up to 6 months as it can help build their immune system and can even ward off problems like diabetes and obesity.
The study was conducted on 64 women all of whom were offered traditional help in the form of pamphlets and one-on-one sessions with lactation experts. This group was then divided into two and one group was given additional audio recordings that could help them relax and offered positive messages about breastfeeding. The women were supposed to listen to this while they breastfed their baby.
It was noted that the women who listened to the audio notes had better breastfeeding outcomes and even reported less stress. These women had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their body. Owing to this, their babies also slept better on an average of 82 minutes longer. They even had better weight gains as compared to the babies from the other group. The babies from the relaxation group also started consuming more milk by about 8 ounces after three months of the therapy.
"The results suggest that a simple relaxation tool - in this case a meditation relaxation recording - was able to reduce maternal stress during breastfeeding, favorably affecting breast milk volume and/or composition and positively influencing infant sleeping behavior and growth," Shukri said. "Although we only tested one type of relaxation intervention, it seems likely that anything that makes a mother feel more relaxed might have similar effects."
"Mothers are often anxious and stressed in the first weeks after birth, and infant weight change has been shown to be associated with maternal anxiety," Flaherman, who wasn't involved in the study, said. "These results show that reducing maternal anxiety with a simple audio recording has the potential to improve infant growth."
"Mothers should use methods that they know work for them to help relax, such as listening to music, reading, meditating or using mindfulness," Feldman-Winter, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email. "These techniques may have multiple positive outcomes in terms of reducing stress, optimizing breastfeeding and newborn growth, and helping infant achieve more consolidated sleep, which may help mothers sleep as well."