Study shows mother's voice improves hospitalization and feeding in preemies

February 18, 2014, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Premature babies who receive an interventional therapy combining their mother's voice and a pacifier-activated music player learn to eat more efficiently and have their feeding tubes removed sooner than other preemies. Credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Premature babies who receive an interventional therapy combining their mother's voice and a pacifier-activated music player learn to eat more efficiently and have their feeding tubes removed sooner than other preemies, according to a Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt study published today in Pediatrics.

The performed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital tested 94 premature , pairing their mother's voice singing a lullaby with a pacifier-activated music player.

To qualify for the study the babies had to have reached 34-36 weeks postmenstrual age, be in stable condition, and able to breathe on their own. The participating babies received the intervention for 15 minutes a day for five days in a row. When they sucked correctly on their pacifier, a special device with sensors and speakers, they were rewarded by hearing their mother singing a lullaby. If they stopped sucking, the music would stop.

"A mother's voice is a powerful auditory cue," said study author Nathalie Maitre, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics. "Babies know and love their mother's voice. It has proven to be the perfect incentive to help motivate these babies."

Music therapist Olena Chorna, MM, MT-BC, NICU-MT, worked closely with the mothers, making them comfortable and teaching them the two study-approved lullabies, "Hush Little Baby" and "Snuggle Puppy."

The lullabies selected were chosen with care. The melodies had to be simple, repetitive and within one octave range. Anything more complex could be too much for a 's developing brain. The songs were then recorded and connected to the pacifier-activated .

"The mothers were enthusiastic to join the study," Chorna said. "Some of the mothers were nervous to sing, but we found they were really grateful to be able to do something to help their babies."

Doctors didn't question whether Deborah Locke's son would come early; it was only a matter of how early he would come. Her son, Chazon King, was born three months early at 1 pound, 8 ounces. Locke says that the study has given her hope.

"I noticed right away, that after his therapy sessions, Chazon's breathing and sucking would get a little better each time. Everyone has been so amazed at how well he is now doing," Locke said.

"He can't really see me yet because his vision has not developed enough, but he can hear me. Singing to him is something that I can do to comfort him and let him know that I'm here."

Maitre and Chorna analyzed the data with the help of James C. Slaughter, Dr.P.H., assistant professor of Biostatistics. The study shows babies who receive the pacifier intervention were able to have their feeding tubes removed about a week earlier than babies who did not receive the intervention. In addition, the results show clear evidence babies ate more frequently and developed a stronger sucking ability, and did not show signs of stress during their pacifier sessions. They also appeared to have shorter hospitalizations.

"The benefits are both medical and emotional as this is a unique way for parents to directly help their children learn a skill crucial to their growth and development," Maitre said. "It gives parents a small amount of control to improve their baby's medical course, in addition to giving them a bonding experience which will last throughout childhood."

Explore further: Mother's voice on special pacifier helps preemies learn to eat

Related Stories

Mother's voice on special pacifier helps preemies learn to eat

February 17, 2014
(HealthDay)—Premature babies often struggle to learn to eat. Now, a special pacifier that plays prerecorded songs seems to help speed the process along, researchers say.

New musical pacifier helps premature babies get healthy

May 21, 2012
Many premature babies enter the world with a mountain of challenges in front of them. Even after they overcome any life-threatening issues, they face ongoing, and typically unpleasant, medical procedures, long hospital stays ...

Study correlates neonatal and early childhood outcomes with preterm birth

February 3, 2014
In a study to be presented on Feb. 6 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in New Orleans, researchers will report on a correlation between initial neonatal and early childhood ...

Smart jacket for premature babies

November 13, 2013
Together with the Máxima Medical Center (MMC), Eindhoven University of Technology has developed a prototype wireless 'baby jacket' for very premature babies in intensive care units. The jacket, which includes monitoring ...

Lullabies soothe preemies, parents alike

April 15, 2013
(HealthDay)—Lullabies have been used to soothe babies since time immemorial. Now, scientists say that premature infants in particular can benefit from combining this tactic with other forms of music therapy, such as simulated ...

Premature babies benefit from adult talk, study finds

February 10, 2014
(HealthDay)—Premature infants face a number of challenges, including a known risk of language delay. But a new study suggests that exposing "preemies" to more adult language in the neonatal intensive care unit can increase ...

Recommended for you

Phone-addicted teens are unhappy, study finds

January 22, 2018
Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.