Music as Medicine

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Does Music Heal?

George Stroumboulopoulos (Strombo) had a post on his website this past week that described the effects of music on premature babies. Strombo writes:

Traditional lullabies and favourite songs (slowed down to resemble lullaby) were played or sung for the babies, along with rhythm therapy such as a whooshing of the ocean or a heartbeat.

Researchers found that music helped to slow babies’ breathing and heart rates, increased their oxygen intake, improved their sucking ability for feeding and helped them sleep better. (cbc.ca)

It’s fascinating research, and I wonder how this could be used with the softer red lights often used in NICU units, which is easier to fall back to sleep to and mimics the mother’s womb. Perhaps we need to start designing with a sound system, one that feeds each baby without disturbing their hearing or the other babies. What I found especially interesting, was that the music helped both the baby and the parents, through singing or audio:

Dr. Joanne Loewy, the lead researcher, said it didn’t matter whether parents or music therapists sang, or whether the babies were in incubators or held.

The music is said to have lowered stress in the parents as well. (cbc.ca)

My friend, a singer, told me she couldn’t wait to sing to her daughter when she was born, and that was the first thing she did as she held her newborn. I think it was therapeutic for them both.

Human voices, especially Mom’s and Dad’s, are a baby’s favorite “music.” Your infant already knows that this is where food, warmth, and touch come from. If your infant is crying in the bassinet, see how quickly your approaching voice quiets him or her down. See how closely your baby listens when you are talking in loving tones. (The Senses and Your Newborn, kidshealth.org)

So, in this case, it makes even more sense if the music playing would be a recording of the parents singing, especially if the premature babies have trouble seeing. Also intriguing, is that there is a difference between genders and the type of music played:

When comparing the means, differences were found between gender and types of music paired with the developmental multimodal stimulation. The results of this study suggest an increase in neurodevelopment for infants receiving developmental multimodal stimulation as hypothesized. (Effects of neurodevelopmental stimulation on premature infants in neonatal intensive care: Randomized controlled trial, ScienceDirect.com)

So, what do you think?

Have you had any experience with music as a healing, or in this case developmental, tool? What song would you turn into a lullaby for your child? Leave your thoughts below, or connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

3 Replies to “Music as Medicine”

  1. Let me first start by saying that I study cults as a hobby, which I have done ever since I studied psychology and social work as a young man. So, my first thought was an unusual one: “Hey, this totally gives the lie to the Dianetics/Scientology principle that babies are HARMED by the sound of human voices that filter into the womb. Bye-bye, ‘silent pregnancy’ and ‘silent birth!'”

    Now I’ll apologize and see myself out.

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    1. Well I can see the fear that shouting to babies negative things in the womb might not be great for the baby, nor would the stress on the mother, but the whole baby Einstein series is fashioned around using music to improve the baby.

      Thanks for leaving a comment John!

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      1. The Dianetics/Scientology notion is that ANY sound of the human voice is harmful, because the baby “misunderstands” it. Pregnancy time around L. Ron Hubbard’s home must have been weird (but not much weirder than all the other times).

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