Premature Infants and Music
Expectant parents hope and pray that their unborn child will be delivered safely, healthy, and on time. Sometimes the unexpected happens and babies arrive before their due dates, meaning that the development of their vital organs and the presence of essential sensory stimulation, which would have occurred while still in the mother’s womb, now take place in carefully regulated isolettes in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The care and nurturing that a premature infant receives during this time is critical. It is critical also that parents are provided with information and support so that, after leaving the hospital, the premature baby continues to develop to his/her fullest potential. The use of music therapy services in medical environments is not new, but what is new (and exciting!) is the extent to which the effects of specialized music therapy interventions in NICUs are impacting what we know about premature infants and the care they need from nurses, physicians, parents, and caregivers for proper development.
There are three common NICU music therapy interventions:
- Multimodal stimulation – A specific sequence of auditory, tactile, and vestibular stimulation activities - designed to increase the infant’s tolerance for stimulation and improve his/her ability to adapt to the surrounding environment - paired with live lullaby music.
- Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) – A pacifier that musically reinforces non-nutritive sucking, helps infants learn the suck-swallow-breathe reflex, and improves feeding.
- Parent training and counseling.
Research has shown that music therapy intervention in NICU provides specific benefits to premature infants, such as:
- Increased oxygen saturation levels;
- Reduced distress behaviors and improves tolerance to environmental stimulation;
- Decreased the length of stay in the NICU;
- Helped facilitate healthy interactions between parents and infant; and
- Improved the feeding rate and increased the rate of weight gain.
Training in NICU music therapy is specialized, and information is available through the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy (www.music.fsu.edu/NICU-MT). The Institute is a collaboration between Florida State University and Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare and is directed by Jayne M. Standley, PhD, MT-BC, NICU-MT.
Even, M (2010). The sound of relief: Music therapy approaches in the NICU. TherapyTimes, April 25, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.therapytimes.com/content= 0302J84C4876B284406040441.
Fulton, K (2010). NICU music therapy. Sound Health Music. Retrieved from http://soundhealthmusic.com/NICUMT.html.