The Power of Music for Premature Infants

A premature infant's first concert may provide more than entertainment. A new study finds live music and lullabies appear to have positive health effects on both the premature infant and his or her parents.

Researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center studied the effects of live music and lullabies on 272 premature infants in 11 different neo-natal intensive care units.

"When infants are exposed to live music they had lower heart rates, better sucking behaviors, and better sleep. They also had parents sing lullabies to their children and when parents were singing to their children those babies fed better, had better sucking behaviors, and the parents had lower levels of anxiety and stress," said Dr. Kim Giuliano.

Researchers found live music provided by a certified music therapist can increase a premature infant's capacity to feed, sleep, and self-regulate.

The music can also have a positive effect on a preemie's breathing and heartbeat. Singing lullabies appears to have a similar effect on baby.

It also eases stress and anxiety for parents, while providing chances to bond.

Researchers say music therapy benefits premature infants and parents should be encouraged to sing to their babies.

"Previous studies have looked at recorded music being played to children and some of those studies are actually over-stimulating for children. There are too many different melodies and sounds, and rhythms and it can actually agitate a neo-natal infant. But when the music is played live the therapists were able to coincide the music with the child's respiratory rate and heart rate," said Dr. Giuliano.

Complete findings for this study are in the journal "Pediatrics."

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