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  • Writer's pictureRuth Rusby

Music and breastfeeding can complement each other

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

Breastfeeding is a time-consuming task and often we want to relax whilst doing so. Listening to music whilst nursing can certainly help with relaxation, but not only that – it has been shown to result in increased milk production. One of the biggest reasons new mums give up breastfeeding is the fear and perception of not having enough milk. Trials in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Brazil have shown that listening to music can increase the hormones that relax us and help with milk production.

Effects of music on breastmilk production

Recent research has shown that listening to music whilst breastfeeding can improve milk production (a low but positive impact). The results were based on analysis of over 2000 trials conducted worldwide, of which just five were focussed on in the final review. The impact of these investigations implies that health workers should encourage us to listen to music whilst breastfeeding.

“We always have some music on in the house and if he falls asleep whilst feeding to it, then we leave it on for him to enjoy,” explains Sara, mother of one from England. “We don’t use a specific playlist, just whatever is on. He loves going to festivals with us and will feed to sleep whilst the music plays!”

How does it work?

Listening to music can make us relaxed and happy, which helps with endorphin hormone production. This in turn can encourage the release of prolactin, which is the hormone involved in increasing milk production.

Whilst this is going on, our blood vessels are expanding, and the endorphins are making sure we are less tense and stressed, and breast milk production is increased.

Finally, oxytocin, the love hormone that’s released when we’re happy or being cuddled, also helps with the let-down of the milk which aids suckling and has the added benefit of reducing post-partum depression at the same time.

Music Therapy helps premature newborns

The simplest and most efficient way of increasing the health and survival of premature newborns (preemies) is to promote breastfeeding. The concentration of nutrients and energy in milk from the mother of a premature newborn is far higher than that for a full-term baby, and breastfed preemies have a 20% lower risk of dying due to all the special antioxidants, enzymes and cholesterol that optimise baby’s growth and development.

Mothers of neonates who must spend their first days or weeks in intensive care are understandably anxious, scared and stressed. And yet they are being asked to express milk to be fed to their pre-term infants down tubes inserted in the backs of noses.

A study in India, in 2015, showed that music therapy has a positive effect in reducing the stress in mothers of hospitalized neonates, which therefore increased the amount of expressed breastmilk. Even a slight increase in the amount of expressed milk, providing more nutrition, is a boon to the baby – we are talking teaspoons here!

Cortisol levels were measured over a period of six months amongst 30 mothers who were admitted with premature infants into intensive care and asked to express milk. Of these, 116 sessions were given music therapy and 116 were not, before and during milk expression. Perhaps surprisingly, those who received the music therapy were able to express significantly more breastmilk than those who weren’t. Reduced levels of cortisol suggested the music therapy had reduced the levels of anxiety in the mums, which had resulted in more breastmilk production.

What should I listen to?

The study in India focussed on providing Indian classical music to the mums who were expressing milk for their preemies. The review of the trials elsewhere in the world showed that when mothers were allowed to choose their own music in one study, this resulted in the largest positive effects. But in today’s world, when MTV has been replaced by Netflix, maybe it’s not just music we need, but whatever helps us relax the most.

“Back then, I watched Netflix. There was not so much of listening to music while I pumped,” explains Krystle, mother of one from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Roxana, mother of two from Romania, tried different styles: “When I breastfed my first child, I watched mostly serials on AXN, and I listened to children’s music. With my second child, I listened to Romanian romantic music, classical music, and I watched Outlander on Netflix.”

Most importantly, choose what you enjoy listening to or watching, relax and don’t give up. Work your way through any problems and make every drop count.

Ruth Rusby is a scientist, mother of three and author of A Celebration of Breastfeeding: A Global View of Baby Friendly Nursing due to be published later this year. She has been published in Nature, The Telegraph, and currently edits English copy for Foundation Conservation Carpathia ( She is also copywriter and editor for newsletters and annual reviews for Light into Europe (, a Romanian foundation for sight and hearing impaired young people and guide dog training.

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Elisabeth Arnesen
Elisabeth Arnesen
08. Sept. 2022

Whilst breastfeeding Amanda I had the weekly episode of Pride and prejudice (the one with young Colin Firth) on video tape. I would sit in a papayas chair and re watch the episode for a week. Still love that series

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