How Music Helps Your Premature Baby

premature baby and doctor

Music Could Help Your Premature Baby

When your baby comes early it’s impossible not to worry. With the support of your medical team, you want to do everything you can to give your little one the best possible start in spite of their premature birth.

Research suggests that music may have a number of positive effects on the health of an infant born before term. In fact, a number of medical scientists are urging Neonatal Intensive Care Units to include music therapy in their treatment plans.

The physical effects of music on premature babies

To understand how the sound of songs and instruments might affect a premature baby, let’s look at the results of three separate studies.

Study One

The first one, by Joanne Loewy and her team in 2013, used a randomised trial of 272 premature infants across different hospitals to study the effects of music — they exposed the babies to musical intervention three times per week for two weeks. They used live music, and the results were encouraging.

They found that live music and lullabies could influence respiratory and cardiac function; and sucking and feeding behaviour; and help babies to be calm, quiet and alert — rather than distressed while awake.

Study Two

The second study, by M. Olischar in 2011, considered the affects of music on sleep patterns in premature babies. Sleep is, of course, important for all infants, but it’s especially important for those born pre-term as good quality, frequent and extensive sleep is vital for them to mature and grow.

Olischar found that music can induce and improve sleep states, which has a vitally positive impact on early brain development. Live music in particular — including parents’ singing — was found to be effective in inducing sleep.

Study Three

And the third study was conducted by Marianne J. E. van der Heijden et al. in 2016. This one was a systematic review of the potential benefits of musical interventions for premature infants, taking into account a range of medical trials. The significant results of their collated evidence showed that music improves sleep and heart rate, and feeding and sucking.

The extensive data analysed in this study suggested that live music is more effective than recorded music.

baby on parents lap

Sing, play instruments, and introduce sounds to your premature infant

These three studies are just a few of many that support the notion that music can support the health and growth of your baby.

Music therapy is not common practice in Neonatal Intensive Care Units; but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sing lullabies and introduce soft recorded sounds to your child in hospital.

This can also provide a comforting thread of familiarity when your baby is ready to leave hospital and go home with you. Sing and play your baby the same songs regularly from birth, and when you take her home, these comforting tunes will help her to settle in and sleep well. 

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