A recent surge in the past 25 years of medical music therapy research has caught the attention of hospital administrators, health care professionals, and the media across the country. On the front page of the July 2008 issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics News published Music as medicine: In neonatal and rehabilitation units, operating rooms and oncology departments, music therapy is helping to calm, energize, encourage and soothe patients. Hospitals that are leaders in patient care, medical research and teaching have noticed and embraced medical music therapy. On the west coast, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA recently released an article about their new “music therapy on wheels” program. A local news station in Orlando wrote about Florida Hospital’s Music Therapy for Preemies program. The same hospital recently published a monograph entitled Music, Medicine & Miracles by the supervising music therapist. NBC News covered a story in 2008 about Deforia Lane, PhD and the Healing Power of Music at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, OH.

Several hospitals list music therapy as a service on their websites. Medical music therapy is available as a treatment that is cost effective, has no side effects, normalizes the environment, works in conjunction with physical, occupational, and speech therapy goals, and results in positive physiological and behavioral changes. You can read more about NICU music therapy in Dr. Jayne Standley’s book Music Therapy with Premature Infants: Research and Developmental Interventions.

Here are 9 specific, research-based ways that music therapy makes a stay in the NICU easier for the baby, parents, staff, and hospital. The articles are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. The referenced studies have shown statistical significance with regards to the specific physiological or behavioral measure.

  1. Increases oxygen saturation levels. (Flowers, McCain, and Hilker, 1999; Moore, Gladstone, and Standley, 1994; Cassidy & Standley, 1995; Coleman, et al, 1997; Standley & Moore, 1995, Collins & Kuck 1991)
  2. Reduces infant distress behaviors. (Whipple, 2000; Collins & Kuck 1991)
  3. Increases infant self-regulatory behaviors. (Arnon et al, 2006)
  4. Decreases length of hospital stay. (Caine, 1992; Standley, 1998)
  5. Encourages appropriate parent/infant interaction. (Whipple, 2000)
  6. Accelerates weight gain. (Coleman et al 1997; Standley, 1998c)
  7. Increases non-nutritive sucking. (Standley, 2000)
  8. Increases feeding rate. (Standley, 2003)
  9. Earlier successful bottle feeding result. (Cevasco & Grant, 2005; Standley et al, 2005)

Here is the research that backs up those 9 claims.

Arnon, S., Shapsa, A., Forman, L., Regev, R., Bauer, S., Litmanovitz, I., & Dolfin, T. (2006). Live music is beneficial to preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unity environment. Birth, 33(2), 131-136.

Caine, J. (1992). The effects of music on the selected stress behaviors, weight, caloric and formula intake, and length of hospital stay of premature and low birth weight neonates in a newborn intensive care unit. Journal of Music Therapy, 28(4), 180-192.

Cassidy, J.W. & Standley, J.M. (1995). The effect of music listening on physiological responses of premature infants in the NICU. Journal of Music Therapy, 32(4), 208-227.

Cevasco, A. & Grant, R. (2005). Effects of the pacifier activated lullaby on weight gain of premature infants. Journal of Music Therapy, 42, 123-139.

Coleman, J.M., Pratt, R.R., Stoddar, R.A., Gerstmann, R., & Abel, H. (1998). The effects of male and female singing and speaking voices on selected physiological and behavioral measures of premature infants in the intensive care unit. International Jounral of Arts Medicine, 5 (8), 4-11.

Collins, S.K. & Kuck, K. (1991). Music therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit. Neonatal Network, 9 (6), 23-26.

Flowers, A., McCain, A., & Hilker, K. (1999). The effects of music listening on premature infants. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting, Society for Research in Child Development, Albuquerque, NM.

Moore, R., Gladstone, I., & Standley, J. (1994, November). Effects of music, maternal voice, intrauterine sounds, and white noise on the oxygen saturation levels of premature infants. Paper presented at the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc., National Conference, Orlando, FL.

Standley, J. M. & Moore, R. S. (1995). Therapeutic effects of music and mother’s voice on premature infants. Pediatric Nursing, 21 (6), 509-512.

Standley, J. M. (1998). The effect of music and multimodal stimulation on responses of premature infants in neonatal intensive care. Pediatric Nursing, 24(6), 532(1-9).

Standley, J. M. (2000). The effect of contingent music to increase non-nutritive sucking of premature infants. Pediatric Nursing, 26 (5), 494-499.

Standley, J. M. (2002). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of music therapy for premature infants. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 17(2), 107-113.

Standley, J. M. (2003). The effect of music-reinforced nonnutritive sucking on feeding rate of premature infants. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 18(3), 169-173.

Standley, J. M. (2005). Medical Music Therapy: A Model Program for Clinical Practice, Education, Training, and Research. Silver Spring, MD: American Music Therapy Association, Inc.

Whipple, J. (2000). The effect of parent training in music and multimodal stimulation on parent-neonate interactions in the neonatal intensive care unit. Journal of Music Therapy, 37(4), 250-268.

If you liked this post, then you’ll love reading An RN’s Perspective of NICU Music Therapy, 46 Hospitals that Provide NICU MT, and Does Music in the NICU Overstimulate Infants?

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