Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Turn on the Music and Dance

I tell pregnant women all the time, " When you know that you are in labor, turn on the music and dance!" Of course, I am then referring to the benefits of movement and activity in an upright position for labor. Music is great for the time between your epidural and pushing, that time when rest ( sleep) is so important for re-grouping before meeting that baby. In fact, playing music is beneficial through- out pregnany for both mothers and babies.

For decades researchers have studied the effects and benefits of music on a variety of human experiences and emotions. Music is evocative of time and place; it reminds us of our connection to people and events. Music can evoke emotion and make us smile and laugh, hum and sing. Music encourages a bonding experience even before birth for both mom and infant. Sharing time for prenatal music is part of bonding before birth. Music can improve sleep pattern in your newborn. And music can enhance brain stimulation while your baby hears music inside the womb!

Some studies have shown that there is less evidence of postpartum depression when mothers have created strong maternal bonding situations with their unborn baby by sharing music and reading to them during pregnancy. A relationship is developed by this prenatal sharing. Hearing music that becomes familiar over time is a way for babies to learn to connect ( bond )with moms and dads.

Babies are comforted and relaxed by the familiar strains of music that they have been exposed to in-utero. Playing the same music that the baby already knows may help going to sleep faster and sleeping longer. Babies must have enough sleep and those that don't may not be as healthy and strong.

Music ( and language ) becomes the foundation for important developmental tasks that begin even before birth. The brain develops according to how it is used. Music stimulates senses and encourages brain plasticity which enhances learning. We help one neuron connect to another by exposing babies to different sounds. In other words, music stimulates brain growth and connects activated areas of the brain.

Pregnancy brings inherent emotional and physical stressors into the life of a woman. As important as what we eat is the minimization of maternal stress on the unborn fetus. The tension from muscles, emotional angst over anxiety and thus the transfer of stress hormones across the placenta may contribute to a myriad of risks both for the pregnancy and the child. Listening to music helps us unwind and relax, to reduce stress that may adversely affect our baby. Listening to music reduces the production of stress hormones and replaces them with endorphins and serotonin that makes us "happy". Music relaxes muscles and leaves us with a feeling of general well-being.

When you are in the car or at your desk, play music. Eat dinner to music and go to sleep with the sound of music in your consciousness. Try a CD instead of the television and both you and your baby may benefit. Singing qualifies as music so sing to your baby in the womb and be sure to sing to your baby when she comes home.