Live music may help premature babies
According to new research from the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, premature babies can gain significant health benefits from exposure to live music. Preemies in the intensive care unit showed improvements in heart rate, sucking behavior, sleep patterns and calorie intake. The study also found that the music helped parents and babies bond, and that it also helped ease the stress of mothers and fathers.
This study involved 272 premature infants in neonatal intensive care units at 11 hospitals, and the newborns had health issues including breathing problems, bacterial bloodstream infections or were small for their age. The researchers used three types of music therapy. The first involved the use of prerecorded "ocean" sounds, the second was a gato box, which is a drum-like wooden box that is played softly with the fingers. The third intervention involved having the parents singing a lullaby to their baby what researchers called "songs of kin" – songs that had cultural, childhood or religious meaning.
After being exposed to the sounds for 10-minute periods three times a week over two weeks, benefits were produced within each intervention. Preemies whose parents sang to them had the greatest increase in activity or alertness. The ocean sounds most improved sleep patterns and the gato box produced the most significant increase in sucking behavior, which helps with swallowing and breathing.
The researchers concluded that live music can be adapted to the needs of the preemie, unlike prerecorded music, and sounds can be matched to the infant's breathing, for example. And fear not, parents: Even if parents sing out of tune, according to the researchers, babies just need to recognize the voice to draw comfort from it.