Can Music Change Your Milk?

photo copyright Kristen Self Photography 2011

With more and more moms using breast pumps to express milk for their babies, the question on many of their minds is “How can I express more milk?”  In addition to Jane Morton’s work with “hands-on pumping,” a recent pilot study from Advances in Neonatal Care may begin to give us some clues.  When Douglas Keith and his colleagues randomized 162 mothers of critically ill infants to 1 of 3 different listening interventions or normal care while pumping breastmilk, they made an interesting discovery: all mothers who listened to audio content meant to induce relaxation produced more milk.  The interventions consisted of 1) a guided imagery protocol for breastfeeding alone, 2) a guided imagery protocol accompanied by guitar lullabies, or 3) a guided imagery protocol accompanied both by guitar lullabies and a series of images of the mother’s infant on a hands-free stand. All interventions resulted in significantly increased milk quantity compared to normal care.  Mothers who listened to the study’s guided imagery protocol accompanied by both guitar lullabies and images of their infants produced the greatest quantity of milk, and their milk had significantly higher fat content.  Interestingly, the caloric content of the milk was the same for all groups.

For me, the most important finding of this study was that changing the maternal environment through auditory and visual stimuli could dramatically change both milk quantity and composition.  The relaxation and soothing feelings elicited by holding, touching and breastfeeding a newborn may be harder to come by for mothers of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Changing their auditory and visual environment may help them block out distraction and cultivate a state of relaxation resulting in greater milk production.  Although the authors hypothesize that the increases in milk quantity could be due to oxytocin, this study did not investigate the cause of the observed changes.

I used to find that I expressed more milk when I pumped with friends.   Did you notice any difference in the quantity or fat content of your milk when pumping in different situations?

2 comments on “Can Music Change Your Milk?

  1. Pingback: Science You Can Use: Can music make you make more – and fattier – milk? | Best for Babes

  2. Pingback: Science You Can Use: Can music make you make more – and fattier – milk? | Human Anatomy

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