How Families Can Share In Their Preemie’s Music Therapy Experience

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When an expectant mother goes into premature labor, often doctors can find a way to stop the process so that she is able to carry her baby full term. However there are times when the baby just insists on being born right then and there.

What Is a Preemie?

Babies born before the 37th week of gestation are considered premature. Babies born between the 35th and 37th weeks of gestation fall into the category of late preterm, and while they may not look like a preemie, they are still at risk for preemie-related health problems.

Premature babies, and even late preterm babies, can fall victim to things like low blood sugar, anemia, different types of infection, respiratory problems, newborn jaundice, and various forms of intestinal inflammation.

The National Institutes of Health ( reports that preemies often undergo tests to test their vitals. These tests could include analysis to check oxygen levels in the blood, chest x-rays, and monitors to keep a constant check on breathing and heart rates.

Preemies need round-the-clock care. Even if it does not look like they are responding, their minuscule forms react to every noise around them in some way. When those noises are more harmony of their parents’ voices and music and less the cacophonous beeps of machines, great things can happen.

The Need for More NICU Music Therapy Programs

Florida State University’s College of Music lists only a dozen hospitals and clinics in the United States which offer music therapy programs. While the actual number could be as high as 25, that’s still only one per every two states.

The benefits of music therapy are difficult to ignore. Even fetuses in the womb respond positively to music! That is why it’s so important that a hospital’s NICU unit have some type of a music therapy program. The benefits for both preemies and parents are simply endless.

When NICU music therapy programs make use of the voices of family members, then it allows parents to step out to take care of their own basic needs without feeling the guilt of leaving their preemie’s side. Part of a parent’s job is to stay healthy enough to perform their parental duties.

Parents of preemies in the NICU unit may feel useless in the grand scheme of things. But music therapy can empower them and help strengthen the bond between them and their new baby. That’s because the benefits of music therapy are not just physical – they are psychological as well. 

Music Therapy and the Infant Brain

More and more hospitals around the country are beginning to use music therapy programs for their patients, including preemies who are required to stay in the NICU area of the nursery.

Infants who are exposed to music are happier, as indicated by the fact that they flash more smiles than their peers. Listening to music increases brain activity in infants – even preemies. Here are some ways that parents can share in their child’s music therapy experience:

  • Record voices of family members on an iPod or other recorder. Nurses can sterilize the player and put it in a bag in the incubator, and then use it as a therapy tool. When the family cannot be there, it really allows them a way to be a constant presence.

  • Create a CD of lullabies and other soft songs that can be played on a portable CD player. Nurses can sterilize the player and keep it in the incubator, so that either they or the parents can play the songs, boosting the preemie’s brain activity.

  • Using a Hallmark® recordable storybook, nurses can play the book allowing parents to “read” to their preemie even when they cannot be in the room. It is a great way to lend a little extra parental TLC at any time of the day or night.

One mother decided to learn how to learn piano chords and then took her iPad into the hospital. Once it was sterilized, she sat near her son’s crib, playing the virtual piano and singing lullabies to him.

She also recorded the songs on an iPod to be played during times when she had to step out for sleep or a shower. Within a few weeks, the mother could speak her son’s name and he would open his eyes and stare right at her!

Canadian freelancer Mark Harris has found success as both a writer and an internet marketer. Wherever he’s working – whether it is in his home office or at his local coffee house – he always has music in the background. During his free time Mark prefers being outdoors, doing things like hiking and kayaking across his country’s western coastline. However nothing compares to playing tourist in his own city when visiting Vancouver sites with his lovely wife.