Study Finds that Music Helps to Comfort Premature Babies

If you play live music to your premature baby, you can help to improve their wellbeing. This is according to a new study from US researchers, who have found that playing live music to a premature baby can slow their heartbeat and help the child breathe more easily. The researchers also noted that if you sing to your child or play an instrument, you can increase their sucking behaviours. This improves feeding time, and can have a positive effects on your little one’s sleeping patterns.


The study was conducted by Beth Israel Hospital in New York across 11 US hospitals, and involved the mothers of 272 premature babies aged 32 weeks and under, with respiratory distress syndrome, clinical sepsis and/or were small for gestational age. Music therapists gave several sessions over two weeks with singing, no music or two instruments. These were an ocean disc, which is a cylinder full of beads which supposedly mimics the fluid noises of the womb, and gato box, which is a wooden drum meant to simulate the sound of a heartbeat.


Parents were allowed to choose the songs, opting for  ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and ‘Pick up the Pieces’ by Average White Band. The researchers picked the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ if a song wasn’t chosen. As long as any song was slowed down to sound like a lullaby, the music calmed the child down regardless of which song was played. However, because live music can be adapted to meet the needs of the child, this had a greater effect on the babies compared to recorded music.


Singing to the baby made them more attentive and was the most effective method for slowing their heart rate. When parents picked their own song to sing, their own stress levels declined, helping them to create an emotional bond with the baby, and the child also had a higher intake of calories. When parents sung the nursery rhyme, this showed increased levels of oxygenation in the brain. The ocean disc was the best at improving the baby’s sleeping and breathing rate, while the gato box was the most helpful in improving sucking behaviours.

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