Music Therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
Music therapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes sound to promote healing and enhance quality of life. It is an evidence-based practice that can benefit infants, children and adults with disabilities or health conditions.
NICUs can be traumatic environments for premature babies. They’re filled with bright lights, sounds and stimulation that isn’t healthy for a developing brain.
Preterm infants are especially vulnerable to stress as they have less oxygen in their blood and may be breathing faster than healthy newborns. Studies suggest music therapy could be an effective way to reduce stress, pain, as well as improve feeding and sleep patterns for these infants.
Recent studies have demonstrated that music therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can help preterm infants cope with stress and anxiety. It also improved their feeding behaviors, leading to greater weight gain overall.
Studies have demonstrated that babies who receive music therapy tend to be discharged from the NICU sooner than those without. This saves hospitals money since patients can go home sooner and avoid spending extra time in the hospital.
Parents can benefit from having their babies perform lullabies or other melodies that the parents select for them. This is often done with live music, allowing the therapist to adjust pitch, volume and tone as necessary.
Music therapists also possess NICU-specific skills, such as observing the baby’s responses to different sounds and understanding their development and needs. This training is essential for those working in NICUs since overstimulating a baby with music could cause lasting damage.
Researchers report that music therapy has beneficial effects on preterm infants’ heart rate, respiratory rate, oral feeding volume and stress level. However, there is heterogeneity among studies regarding its effects on oxygen saturation, behavioral state and other outcomes.
Many therapists believe music therapy can be beneficial for premature babies as it reduces stress and pain, improving their quality of life. They also believe it teaches babies self-soothing techniques which in turn helps them get more restful nights’ sleep.
Grand River Hospital’s NICU music therapy program has proven to be a breakthrough solution, providing support to premature babies and their families through music. This innovative approach promotes bonding between caregivers and infants alike through music.
Music therapy in NICU hospitals involves playing modified live music on instruments designed specifically for these infants, such as Remo Belli’s Gato Box and Ocean Disc. This gentle form of therapy has been said to calm and soothe premature babies, improve their oxygen levels and deepen their bonding with parents.
A comprehensive randomized trial that compared music therapy with standard medical treatment for infants born prematurely revealed that the former group was more responsive than the latter, improving oxygen saturation, controlling heart rates and sleep patterns. Furthermore, those in the music therapy group experienced stronger improvements on their PIPP score (an indicator of cognitive function) compared to the control group.