Specific elements of music
have therapeutic qualities that may be beneficial to a growing premature infant
. Recorded music has a fixed meter and decibel level, which cannot be adapted to meet the needs of a compromised infant the way live music can.
Researchers studied 272 infants in 11 hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), and found that live music provided by a certified music therapist can increase a premature infant’s capacity to feed, sleep, and self-regulate, whereas noise can have a negative impact on growth and development. Music therapy -- in particular, the use of live, entrained (matched, in the moment with the infant's breathing rate) breath and heart beat sounds -- as well as parent-preferred lullabies can enhance a premature infant's vitals and provide opportunities for bonding. Lullabies, especially the singing of 'songs of kin' (parent-selected – culturally relevant songs) also eases the stress and anxiety of mothers and fathers, enhancing ease and attachment through NICU stays.
Study authors determine that music therapy programs provide a valuable service to premature infants in the NICU. Parents should be encouraged to sing to their babies, providing a familiar and comforting voice, with a familiar theme, to help develop the emotional bond between the premature infant and parent.