Music Benefits Preterm Babies
Preterm babies appear to experience less pain and feed more when listening to music, a recent study suggests. Experts led by Dr. Manoj Kumar of the University of Alberta, Canada, analyzed nine clinical trials and found that music had a beneficial effect on lessening pain for preterm babies undergoing painful procedures such as heel prick blood tests. It also appeared to benefit full-term babies during operations.
The research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, included trials published between 1989 and 2006 looking at music and heart rate, oxygen levels and pain levels. Most of the trials used lullabies with or without added sounds such as heartbeats or womb noises. One used live music, a specially composed wordless lullaby sung by a female voice and accompanied by a harp.
The trials covered a range of populations studied in different ways, making it difficult to reach definitive conclusions, but the authors found “much preliminary evidence for therapeutic benefits of music for specific indications.”
Dr. Kumar said, “One study noted that the use of a pacifier-activated lullaby system in the preterm infants helped improve their oral feeding rates.”
The team writes: “In summary, there is preliminary evidence to suggest that music may have beneficial effects in terms of physiological parameters, behavioral states and pain reduction during painful medical procedures.
“However, most trials conducted to date are of poor methodological quality. Additional methodologically rigorous, randomized controlled trials are warranted to confirm and to further elucidate the benefits of music for neonates before any specific recommendation for the use of music can be made in the neonatal population.”
Neonatal units in several countries are increasingly using music as a method to improve behavioral and health outcomes, or to manage pain during common procedures. Benefits are thought to include calmer infants and parents, more chance of reaching a stable condition, faster weight gain and shorter stays in hospital.
A team from Bern in Switzerland looked at the advantages of playing music to newborns in neonatal intensive care units. They explain that these babies are exposed to a high number of painful procedures. “Since repeated and sustained pain can have consequences for the neurological and behavior-oriented development of the newborn, the greatest attention needs to be paid to systematic pain management in neonatology,” they write.