The benefits of breastfeeding infants have been well studied and are generally well known. Breastfeeding continues to be the recommended source of newborn feeding as long as it’s practical and sustainable for mom and healthy for baby. Breastfed infants are at lower risk of developing gastrointestinal issues and infections in their infancy. Breastfeeding also plays an important role in developing an infant’s early immunity, as well as the development of their digestive health. For mothers, breastfeeding may lower the risk for ovarian and breast cancer as well as type 2 diabetes.
Even with the promise of the benefits that come with breastfeeding, it’s difficult and oftentimes stressful for mothers to continue to breastfeed their children until the recommended 6 month period of breastfeeding, and only about 30% of mothers fulfill their breastfeeding goals. Many mothers find that the stress of having infants that do not sleep for very long and do not seem to be satiated after feeding to be overwhelming. A newly published study found that mothers getting emotional support through relaxation interventions during breastfeeding were less stressed, which had numerous positive impacts on the health of their infants.
In this study lead by Dr. Shurkri, healthy first-time mothers who exclusively breastfeed were given Sheri Menelli’s Breastfeeding Meditation, which is an audio-guided imagery protocol designed for breastfeeding mothers. They listened to this audio daily while breastfeeding for at least two weeks and were encouraged to continue to listen to it as needed.
Mothers who listened to this relaxation therapy produced less cortisol, a stress hormone, as well as produced more breast milk after two weeks. It has been previously found that maternal cortisol is present in breast milk, which can affect infant behavior, as higher cortisol found in breastmilk was linked to negative temperaments in infants, showing that the state mothers are in when they breastfeed does play a role in how infants behave. It has also been shown that higher levels of stress in mothers correlate with lower milk yield, as well as with increased postpartum distress.
The infants of mothers who listened to this audio had a 59% increase in intake of breastmilk. Because the mothers who went through the relaxation intervention were less stressed and therefore produced significantly less cortisol. As a result, infants slept about 82 minutes longer per day and had higher healthy weight gains.
The relaxational therapy, “Breastfeeding Meditation” by Sheri Menelli, was found to positively impact maternal mental health, and this, in turn, helped infant temperament and health. In other studies, it has also been shown that relaxational therapies and audios can also help increase mothers’ sleep quality. It may be beneficial for mothers who need emotional support to continue to breastfeed their infants to listen to this relaxation audio therapy, as it not only benefits them, but their infants as well.
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