Lullabies are healing for babies, study says
Mothers have, for centuries, soothed their babies with softly sung lullabies. Now, one study suggests that live, interactive music can also help preterm babies develop.
The study, published in the May issue of Pediatrics, looked at 272 preterm infants being care for in 11 hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). They found that after mom sang to their babies, it slowed their heart rates, improved sleep and even perked up feeding patterns. Additionally, babies experiencing conditions such as respiratory distress and infections also showed improvement while listening to mommy songs and other live music or natural sounds.
Joanne Lowey, co-author of the study and director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, said in a statement that babies in need of extra care in NICUs have traditionally been left alone in incubators with little stimulation. This study affirms the trend in many NICUs that have providing appropriate sensory stimulation to assist in neurologic function development, she says.
According to the study, lullabies sung by a parent or music therapist, as well as replicated imitations of the sound of a heartbeat in the womb, improved oxygenation of the blood and even help ease the parents’ stress in the NICU.
“It’s great that we now have scientific proof of what we’ve known for a long time—that premature babies are stimulated by the rhythm of music, especially when sung by his or her own mother,” says Dr. Vivek Ghai, neonatologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “We’ve known for years that anything which fosters human interaction—a touch, a soft voice—is good for babies in the NICU. It’s part of the whole method of care.”
Dr. Ghai agreed that NIUCs have undergone a transformation in recent years, encouraging more interaction with the babies, including talking, stroking and holding.
“This is just one more aspect of that holistic care,” he says. “We’ll definitely be looking into how we can capture the advantages of this information in the NICU at Advocate Illinois Masonic.”
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