Being a new mother can be a very exciting but daunting event in a woman’s life. New mothers are exposed to an overload of information that is not always well researched as to what an infant’s needs are. One of the most important factors of an infant’s psychosocial development is to develop and strengthen healthy attachment to the mother. Infants exhibit two primary emotional responses at birth: attraction and withdrawal. They show attraction to pleasant situations that bring comfort, stimulation and pleasure but will withdraw from unpleasant stimulation. Soon after an infant will exhibit social engagement in the form of social smiling and vocalizations as a response to positive attention from the primary caretaker. Breastfeeding is a very handy tool during this developmental phase of mother-infant attachment and bonding. However, the emotional wellbeing of the mother plays a vital role during breastfeeding. Research studies indicate that music therapy groups in NICU’s can be beneficial for new mothers and affect the bonding with their infants in the following ways:
- Group music therapy assists with stress management and anxiety relief for mothers.
- Mothers smile and talk more to their infants during and after the sessions.
- Mothers make more pleasure related sounds and laughs during breastfeeding attempts.
- The mother’s satisfaction with her breastfeeding experience increases, which results in an increase in wanting to breastfeed for longer periods of times.
- Sessions taking place in a NICU allows a mother a few minutes exclusively dedicated to herself and her infant, with the absence of medical personnel. This provides her with the opportunity to reflect on her experience of breastfeeding and the joys of becoming a mother.
- Mothers express positive emotional responses as evidenced by crying, smiling, laughing and talking about personal life events, which enhances the bonding with her infant as well as with the spouse (if one is present) during the session.
- Mothers who attend longer music therapy sessions feel more relaxed and comfortable whilst breastfeeding. This results in some being able to breastfeed for longer amounts of time. This contributes to infants being fed longer and receiving a higher feeding score.
- New mothers who have a positive experience adjusting to the feeding needs of her infant will be able to breastfeed with confidence and have a more relaxed and successful experience during future breastfeeding attempts.
The use of music before breastfeeding is a powerful tool when providing for the emotional needs of the mother as it can assist in the decrease of postpartum depression and anxiety. Thus, it is important to take note that the mother’s emotional state and wellbeing influence the experience of breastfeeding for both mother and infant. Music therapy offers a therapeutic intervention that reduces the anxiety of first-time mothers who are breastfeeding in the early postpartum period and increases their overall sense of well-being.
- McMurry, D. E. (1992). Prenatal breastfeeding education: its effect on mothers. postpartum anxiety levels. Unpublished master’s thesis, Florida State University.
- Procelli, D. E. (2005). The Effects of Music Therapy and Relaxation Prior to Breastfeeding on the Anxiety of New Mothers and the Behaviour State of Their Infants during Feeing. Unpublished master’s thesis, Florida State University.
- Reyes, E. (1983). Predicting breastfeeding success. Unpublished master’s thesis, Florida State University.