Music Therapy in Neonatal Intensive Care
At a time when babies are usually growing and developing in their mother’s womb, premature infants are exposed to the busy medical environment of the neonatal intensive care unit and commonly endure painful treatments and procedures. The critical process of neurological development that takes place during the 3rd trimester is usually delayed due to the stress these infants experience in the NICU. Through specific research based techniques, music therapy has been proven successful in increasing premature infants’ tolerance to stimulation resulting in faster weight gain and a decreased length of stay. There are 2 main treatments music therapy uses in the NICU. The first is multimodal stimulation. This treatment is to help increase each baby’s tolerance to different types of stimulation in the NICU. Using live lullaby music sung with classical guitar accompaniment, the music therapist administers 3 different types of stimulation – auditory, tactile (massage) and vestibular (rocking). Through this process, each baby learns to tolerate the different sounds in the NICU as well as being touched and held. The second treatment is using a device called the PAL or Pacifier Activated Lullaby and is used with preemies who are having a hard time feeding. This machine helps to teach preemies the suck, swallow, breath reflex needed when being bottle fed using music as a reward each time the baby sucks. As a result, these babies gain weight and leave the hospital faster.