Music doesn’t just improve mood, it seems it may also help reduce pain and promote better feeding in premature babies.
A Canadian team reviewed the results of nine studies on the effects of music on premature babies. Most of the studies were designed to assess the effects of music on babies during painful procedures, one measured the effect of music on feeding and two looked at the effects of music on infant physiology and behaviours. In the studies reviewed, the music included pieces by composers like Mozart, lullabies with or without lyrics, and female voices accompanied by a harp.
The researchers concluded that music helped calm both infants and parents, while contributing to faster weight gain and shorter hospital stays. Music also appeared to improve certain biological parameters like heart and respiratory rates.
Premature births, i.e. those occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy, have been on the increase in recent years. They are responsible for three-quarters of deaths in the first month of life and for several chronic health problems. Many factors can lead to premature births, including maternal smoking, infections during the pregnancy, and pregnancies with more than one fetus.
While more research is still needed to confirm the benefits of music, these findings suggest that playing beautiful melodies to premature infants may be a simple and effective way to contribute to their well-being. In fact, increasing numbers of neonatal units are playing music on their wards.