In the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Memorial Hospital, Indiana, it’s not unusual to hear live singing and guitars. Since January 2016, the NICU has been adding music therapy to its daily treatment of premature babies, with the aim of sending them home earlier than expected.
So far, eight babies and their parents have been involved. “[Music therapy] helps them learn to tolerate their environment, so they can go home a little faster, which is what we really want,” music therapist Cambrae Reedstrom told wndu.com. “Here they’re in a very controlled environment. They are in a crib or being held; the noise levels are low; the lights are regulated; the temperatures are regulated.”
One of the patients is 15-day-year-old Grant Springer, who was born at 34 weeks. “I’ll do whatever I can to get him home sooner,” said his mother, Sara Springer. “Every time he [receives music therapy] just gets more relaxed and more accustomed to the program.”
Reedstrom is measuring the program’s success by comparing the growth and discharge dates of her patients with those of babies not receiving music therapy, and has already observed favourable results. She said, “Even in a few months, I’ve seen a difference – even by a few days – for some of the babies, who go home sooner than others born around the same age.”
The program is inspired by recent research demonstrating the positive impact of music therapy. In 2013, a study led by Dr. Joanne Loewy, director of the Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy, involved 11 hospitals and close to 300 premature babies. “We were able to show that we could render other heart rates, different sleep patterns, improve caloric intake and sucking behaviour, and that parent-preferred lullabies could decrease stress,” Dr. Loewy told the Kansas Health Institute News Service.