Fed is always best, but if you make the choice to breastfeed that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing. New research has found that certain breastfeeding relaxation treatments can help moms feel less stressed and babies eat and sleep more.

A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested the effects of a relaxation intervention on nursing moms. The researchers measured how the treatment impacted maternal psychological state, breast milk intake, milk cortisol levels and infant behavior and growth.

photo: Wes Hicks via Unsplash

The trial was small and included just 64 first time moms who delivered a healthy full-term infant and were exclusively breastfeeding, but it resulted in lower stress scores for the women and longer sleep duration and higher weight gain in infants versus the control group.

The relaxation therapy involved an audio recording which encouraged relaxation through deep breathing and gave positive messages about breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding. The moms were asked to listen to the recording daily while breastfeeding or expressing milk for a period of at least two weeks and were encouraged to listen beyond the initial period whenever it felt useful. They recorded their uses in a diary. The moms in both the intervention group and control group also received standard breastfeeding support in the form of pamphlets and directories of lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups.

The intervention group had significantly lower stress scores than the control group. A 59 percent increased intake of breastmilk was observed in the infants in the intervention group versus a 39 percent increase in the control group. The infants in the intervention group also recorded significantly higher sleep duration by an average of 82 minutes per day over the control group.

“Our trial highlights the importance of minimizing and reducing maternal stress, because the experimental relaxation intervention influenced infant behavior, breast-milk cortisol, and volume at one timepoint, and subsequently infant growth,” the study’s authors concluded. “Given that the intervention tool is simple and practical, it could easily be used in future interventions aimed at increasing the rates and duration of breastfeeding.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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