Singing May Enhance Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Therapy

Maternal singing soothed babies and eased anxiety for mothers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lullabies are a quick and simple way to comfort newborn babies. And they may also enhance the benefits of skin-to-skin therapy.

Numerous studies have examined the benefits of both music and skin-to-skin therapy performed separately.

A recent study showed that mothers who sang to their babies during skin-to-skin therapy not only soothed their babies, but also eased their own anxiety.

"Ask your pediatrician about adding singing to your skin-to-skin routine."

The study was led by Shmuel Arnon, MD, in the Department of Neonatology at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel.

The study examined autonomic nervous system (ANS) stability of premature infants by measuring their heart rate variability (HRV) during skin-to-skin therapy, with and without maternal singing. HRV is the variation in the timing between heartbeats. Maternal anxiety was measured using a survey made up of 20 statements used to describe anxiety symptoms. Higher scores meant higher levels of anxiety.

Kangaroo care, otherwise known as skin-to-skin therapy, is a practice where a newborn baby is placed in direct skin contact with her mother or father. It can soothe crying infants and allow parents to bond with their newborns. For babies born prematurely, the benefits can be even more substantial, including calming effects, improved heart rate regulation and better sleep.

The study authors selected a total of 86 otherwise healthy preterm (premature) infants, born 32 to 36 weeks into pregnancy.

Therapy began 20 minutes after feeding and started with 10 minutes of skin-to-skin alone. This was followed by either 20 minutes of skin-to-skin alone or 20 minutes of skin-to-skin with singing, depending on which group the mother was in. The groups alternated on the second day. The babies were placed directly onto their mothers' chests and then covered with blankets. The mothers were then asked to sing a soft, repetitive, soothing tone with a slow tempo. Moms were also asked to include lullabies.

The study authors found that the measures for HRV were significantly lower during skin-to-skin with singing than during skin-to-skin alone. The addition of singing led to an average 2.4-point drop in HRV compared to skin-to-skin alone. This indicated a significant improvement in ANS stability when singing was added.

Also, the researchers found that singing had an effect on maternal anxiety. When the mothers added singing, the study authors noted an average 10.8-point drop in their anxiety survey scores. This suggested that singing provided additional relief of anxiety for the mothers.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that singing during skin-to-skin therapy could be a safe, inexpensive way to reduce anxiety in both mothers and preterm babies.

The study was published July 11 in Acta Paediatrica.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest or funding information.

Review Date: 
August 20, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2015