A new study published in Pediatrics examines the use of live music therapy in noisy neonatal intensive care units, and the benefits to its occupants: premature babies and their parents:

The informed, intentional therapeutic use of live sound and parent-preferred lullabies applied by a certified music therapist can influence cardiac and respiratory function. Entrained with a premature infant’s observed vital signs, sound and lullaby may improve feeding behaviors and sucking patterns and may increase prolonged periods of quiet–alert states. Parent-preferred lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.


The study used live (not recorded) music from three sources — a live voice singing, a percussion instrument called a gato box, and a “white noise” device called an “ocean disc” — and found benefits with each one.  Pam Belluck summarizes:

Researchers found that the gato box, the ocean disc and singing all slowed a baby’s heart rate, though singing seemed to be most effective. Singing also increased the time babies stayed quietly alert. Sucking behavior improved most with the gato box. The breathing rate slowed the most and sleeping was the best with the ocean disc.


Read article and watch video at NYTimes.com here.