Music Therapy in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs)
Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) save babies’ lives but they can also be very stressful places for mothers. Research has indicated that music therapy can help alleviate some of that stress, allowing a baby’s brain development in peace.
Music therapy has been proven to improve an infant’s breathing, heart rate and feeding patterns. Studies have even demonstrated that it can reduce hospital stay time for these newly borns – saving hospitals money in the process!
Florida experts spearheaded this practice, and now it is spreading nationwide, according to FSU alumna Ciele Gutierrez who works at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She has found success using music to soothe babies – especially premature ones – during their first few months of life.
Parents often sing lullabies to their newborns, but music therapists have learned how to maximize its impact. They play music directly to a child’s heart rate or lungs, or use something called “Gato Box,” an automated machine that simulates amniotic fluid.
Ashley Preston of Gainesville reported that her son Carter, born about three months premature, calmed down when the music played. He began breathing better and could sleep better as well, according to Preston.
Standley noted that preemies are born prematurely because their bodies don’t have enough time to fully develop, leading them to be born with conditions such as spina bifida or other congenital disorders.
Babies in NICUs often face intense lights and sounds that can affect their brains, leading to other medical issues down the line. Furthermore, some may be in pain as a result of such trauma, according to experts.
Standley stressed the significance of specialized training, noting it can be challenging to find. But she believes it’s worth investing in; many babies are discharged much earlier with it than without it.
NICU-MT has become increasingly recognized as an essential element of intensive care medical models in both the U.S. and abroad, drawing upon accepted outcome measures as well as a more integrative developmental and psychosocial perspective. Through NICU-MT theory, physicians can explain its efficacy to their patients using objective indicators like hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis development or neuropsychological development (Shoemark, 2008b).
Music therapists in the NICU often take an integrative approach. They collaborate with physicians and nurses to ensure they are doing what is best for each patient, according to Standley. Furthermore, they interact closely with families as well.
Creative music therapy, also known as Neonatal Intensive Care Unit music therapy, was specifically tailored for neonates and their families in NICU settings. Based on Nordoff-Robbins’ model of music therapy, it offers personalized, interactive, resource-oriented services tailored to neonates’ needs.
The primary objectives of NICU-MT are to reduce the length of stay for preterm infants and promote their neurological maturation. This is accomplished through social and emotional skills development as well as decreased physiological responses such as cortisol or b-endorphins to stressors.