Premature births are stressful experiences that raise the risk of anxiety in women and may impede the development of mother-infant relationships. According to a new study, the combination of singing and kangaroo care improves the welfare of preterm infant mothers while also making it simpler for them to build a bond with their kids.
When a child is born before term, the mother and newborn are physically separated due to the latter’s need for hospital care. Mothers with preterm newborns frequently endure stress in the hospital, and their concern for the baby’s life can be profound. This increases their risk of anxiety and sadness, especially among mothers of infants with low birth weights or who are born prematurely. Maternal stress and depressive symptoms might potentially jeopardize the infant’s development. University of Helsinki researchers contributed to a study looking into the impact of singing during kangaroo care on maternal well-being and the mother-infant connection following preterm birth.
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a special method of care for low birth weight (<2500gm) babies. As the name suggests Kangaroo Mother Care consists of keeping the baby in close skin-to-skin contact with his/her mother as practiced by female kangaroo animals for their babies. The premature infant is put on the parent’s chest in kangaroo care to create skin-to-skin contact. Because of its developmental benefits, the approach has become standard care for preterm newborns. It is frequently begun during intensive care immediately once the infant’s physical state allows for kangaroo care.
Music therapy during Kangaroo care
The ‘Singing Kangaroo’ study, conducted at the University of Helsinki, evaluated 24 mothers who sang or hummed while providing kangaroo care to their preterm infants between weeks 33 and 40 of pregnancy. A music therapist guided the intervention group’s parents in singing in a manner appropriate for the preterm infant’s age and provided them with singing material. In the control group, 12 moms performed kangaroo care as usual until week 40, with no inducement to sing. Maternal anxiety was measured before and after the intervention. Following the singing session, the mothers in the singing group filled out a questionnaire on their singing experiences. The mothers in both groups kept a journal in which they reported the length of their daily interventions, and the mothers in the control group also recorded information about the aural environment associated with kangaroo care.
Music therapy and singing by mothers reduce their anxiety
“Prior research has shown that the mother’s voice and singing have positive effects on the development of preterm infants, among them the potential to stabilize their physiological state. In addition, several music therapy studies have demonstrated that music therapy and singing by mothers in conjunction with kangaroo care already in intensive care can positively affect the mothers in particular by reducing their anxiety,” says doctoral student Kaisamari Kostilainen from the University of Helsinki. Singing helps both mother and infant relax — After the study, all the mothers continued to sing.
Singing influences maternal mood and general well-being
According to the findings, anxiety was significantly lower in the group of singing moms following the intervention period compared to the women in the control group, who did not sing during kangaroo care, according to their diaries. The questionnaire results reveal that singing has a good influence on maternal mood and general well-being. Singing boosted the mood of 18 moms (85%), while 14 mothers (67%) said it helped them manage in a tough situation. Sixteen respondents (76%) agreed that singing improved their overall well-being.
Singing aids in the development of the mother-infant relationship
Furthermore, the mothers thought that singing calmed both them and their babies and aided in the development of the mother-infant relationship. Under the questionnaire, 19 moms (90%) indicated that their babies relaxed under kangaroo care because of their singing. Seventeen women (80%) said that their babies dozed off while listening to the singing. Singing, according to nearly all moms (95%), improved engagement with their newborns and made it simpler to create an emotional connection. During the intervention, moms sang the most, however, 16 mothers (76%) indicated that the other parent also sang to their preterm infant. The father was the other parent in all the families in the dataset. There was insufficient data on the fathers to do an analysis.
Singing supports maternal well-being and promotes emotional connection
All the moms in the singing group said that they continued to sing at home after the study, with singing being a regular part of their daily family routines. “The results show that singing in kangaroo care after preterm birth can support maternal well-being and the mother-infant relationship by creating interactive situations and promoting an emotional connection. However, mothers may need support, guidance, and privacy for singing. According to our findings, mothers may benefit from support and guidance provided by a trained music therapist in singing and using their voice in support of wellbeing and interaction while in hospital care,” Kostilainen says.
Materials provided by University of Helsinki. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Kaisamari Kostilainen, Kaija Mikkola, Jaakko Erkkilä, Minna Huotilainen. Effects of maternal singing during kangaroo care on maternal anxiety, wellbeing, and mother-infant relationship after preterm birth: a mixed methods study. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 2020; 1 DOI: 10.1080/08098131.2020.1837210
University of Helsinki. “Singing to preterm infants during kangaroo care reduces maternal anxiety.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201214104720.htm>.
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