New York: Listening to live music may boost the health of premature babies who are being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit, a new study has claimed.
In the research, when the premature babies in intensive care listened to live music, they showed measurable improvements in heart rate, sucking behaviour, sleep patterns and calorie intake.
In addition, music helped parents and babies bond, and relieved the stress of parents, MyHealthNewsDaily reported.
The US study involved 272 premature infants in neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, at 11 hospitals. The infants had health issues such as breathing problems, bacterial bloodstream infections or were small for their age.
The researchers looked at preemies` responses to three types of music therapy. One involved a Remo ocean disc, which is an instrument that produces a soothing "whoosh" sound and another intervention involved a gato box, which is a drumlike wooden box that is played softly with the fingers.
The ocean disc mimics the sound of the in
utero environment, the researchers said, and could have a soothing, sleep-enhancing effect, while the gato box would sound like a mother`s heartbeat.
During the third intervention, parents sang a lullaby to their baby that had a cultural, childhood or religious meaning - what researchers call a "song of kin." If the parents didn`t have a song of kin, they sang the default tune, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
Each baby was exposed to each intervention for 10 minutes three times a week for two weeks.
Results showed that each music intervention had different health benefits. For example, preemies whose parents sang to them had the greatest increase in activity or alertness.
The whooshing sound of the Remo ocean disc was linked with the greatest improvement in sleep patterns, and the sounds emitted by the gato box increased babies` sucking behaviour, which helps with swallowing and breathing.
Babies who heard a song of kin consumed more calories than babies who listened to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." On the other hand, babies who heard "Twinkle, Twinkle" had slightly higher levels of oxygen in their blood.
Parents who sang to their babies reported feeling much less stress.
"The findings mean musical therapies could be tailored to the specific needs of a preemie," said study researcher Joanne Loewy, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
"Live sounds are the key. When a music therapist teaches parents to entrain with the baby`s vital signs, it can have a therapeutic effect," Loewy said.
The sounds researchers used during the study ranged from 55 to 65 decibels, equivalent to the volume of a moderate rainfall or a conversation.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.