Music may help premature babies cope

By Tom Nordlie • Published: September 21st, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Premature babies have it tough.

Born before they’re ready to live outside their mothers’ bodies, they spend their first weeks or months struggling to survive.

Some experts believe music can reduce stress, promote weight gain and shorten hospital stays for preemies.

But it’s controversial.

A review article in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood– Fetal and Neonatal Edition sought to evaluate these claims.

The authors looked at nine previous studies on the subject.

Unfortunately, most of the studies weren’t well-designed. So the authors weren’t able to draw many conclusions.

Six studies investigated whether music could help infants cope with painful medical procedures.

One study on circumcision was of high quality, and suggested music has favorable effects on pain, heart rate and saturated oxygen levels.

Three studies on heel-stick procedures used to draw blood were of low quality, but provided some evidence that music may be beneficial in reducing pain as well.

The remaining studies looked at other issues… increasing sucking behavior that can lead to weight gain, enhancing physiological stability in infants with chronic lung disease, and promoting general well-being.

The authors concluded that music probably helps preemies handle minor discomfort, and may increase appetite.

But they said further research is needed.

For example, the type of music, its tempo and the use of accompanying sounds may be important factors in providing comfort to babies.

So here’s a unique opportunity for science and art to collaborate for the benefit of our smallest citizens.

Let’s hope it works out harmoniously.