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Why playing music to premature babies 'helps them sleep and improves their breathing'New study claims music can puts newborns into a quietly attentive stateAlso improves sucking behaviours which are important to help them feedSound of instrument or a parent singing is better than nursery rhymesResearch by Beth Israel Hospital in New York across 11 American hospitals

By
Daniel Bates

PUBLISHED:

16:47 GMT, 15 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:11 GMT, 15 April 2013


Soothing: The sound of music can make a newborn sleep better and puts them in a quietly attentive state

Soothing: The sound of music can make a newborn sleep better and puts them in a quietly attentive state

Playing live music to a prematurely born baby can slow its heartbeat and make the child breathe more easily, according to a new study.

The sound of an instrument or parent singing can make a newborn sleep better and puts them in a quietly attentive state.

In some cases it also improves sucking behaviours which are important to help them feed.

The researchers found the effect was true regardless of which song was played, although the tracks had to be slowed down so that they sounded like a lullaby.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence that music can benefit newborn children.

Doctors
in the US have reported that it is as effective – not to mention safer –
than using sedatives before giving them heart or brain scans.

The new research was coordinated by Beth Israel Hospital in New York across 11 American hospitals.

Music
therapists worked with the mothers of 272 premature babies for several
sessions over two weeks using either two instruments, singing or no
music.

The instruments used
were a ‘gato box’, which is a wooden drum, and an ‘ocean disc’ which is a
cylinder full of beads which was used to make whooshing noises.

Among the songs chosen were ‘I heard it through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and ‘Pick up the Pieces’ by Average White Band’.

In Britain a premature baby is categorised as one that is born less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy.

Fighting chance: In Britain a premature baby is categorised as one that is born less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy

Both
were slowed down so they were softer on the ear. If no song was chosen
then the researchers chose the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little
Star’.

Joanne Loewy, the
study’s leader and the director of Beth Israel’s Louis Armstrong Centre
for Music and Medicine, said that all the instruments had a beneficial
effect.

BABY BRITAIN: GIVING PREMATURE NEWBORNS A CHANCE IN THE UK

In Britain a premature baby is categorised as one that is born less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy.

In Britain a premature baby is categorised as one that is born less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy.

The
UK has the highest rate of premature births in Europe.

Approximately
one in eight babies born in the UK every year are born prematurely or
becomes ill soon afterwards. Out of these 70,000 babies, around 18,000 need intensive care.

Survival
rates have however improved and early 80 per cent of babies weighing
2lb 2oz, or 'sugar bag babies' as they are sometimes known, are now
expected to live compared with 20 per cent in 1980.

However sucking behaviour improved
most with the gato box. The breathing rate slowed the most and sleeping
was the best with the ocean disc.

Singing was the most effective at slowing the baby’s heart rate and it also made the baby most attentive.

Dr Loewy said babies who heard songs chosen by their parents as opposed to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ also had better feeding behaviour, but the nursery rhyme did lead to more oxygenation of the blood.

In her report she said that one of the reasons the music may have been effective was that it mimicked the noises the baby heard when it was in the womb.

Among those who took part in the study was new mother Andrea Zalkin who sang the Beatles hit ‘Eight Days a Week’ to her son Hudson, who was born 13 weeks early.

The music therapist working with her changed it to a slow waltz and amended the lyrics so they included the words ‘Baby Hudson’ and the sound ‘ahh’.

Miss Zalkin said that she saw that it ‘changes the way he’s breathing and I’m breathing, it changes his behaviour’.

The new study was published in the journal Paediatrics.


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