Music therapy helps NICU babies go home sooner

Published: Mar. 8, 2016 at 5:16 PM EST
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A place you might not expect music, is now being filled with song.

If you were a parent of a premature baby who spent time in the NICU, you might remember the constant beeps and blinks from monitors.

Now, with new research and a program that's making music the new normal, Memorial Hospital's tiniest patients are being sent home sooner.

The program kicked off at in January, but already, eight premature babies and their parents are taking part.

Research shows music therapy helps make the transition from the NICU out into the world smoother.

"It helps them learn to tolerate their environment so they can go home a little faster, which is what we really want,” said Cambrae Reedstrom, Board Certified Music Therapist.

Meet Sara, and her son Grant. He was born at 34 weeks, and is 15 days old.

“I’ll do whatever I can to get him home sooner…you can sometimes feel helpless in these situations so it's just one more thing that I can do,” said Sara Springer, Grant’s mom.

Grant is one of Memorial Hospital's eight NICU patients who has music in his daily routine.

“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,” said Reedstrom.

That's why singing, rocking and massaging helps the babies handle environmental stressors.

“You'll do it one time and they may not be able to handle part of it, or they may show us the over-stimulation sign, and the next time they may be able to do it without an issue,” said Reedstrom.

“Every time he just gets more relaxed and more accustomed to the program,” said Springer.

Research shows the therapy helps preemies sleep better, eat more and in turn gain weight faster. On average, baby girls who have music therapy are sent home 12 days sooner and boys 2 days sooner.

"It actually does help,” said Reedstrom.

Reedstrom is tracking the weight, age and discharge dates of all of her music therapy patients...comparing that to babies born at a similar time who did not have therapy.

“Even in the few months, I’ve seen a difference even by a few days for some of the babies who go home sooner than the other ones who may have been born around the same age,” said Reedstrom.

A new normal at Memorial's NICU that Reedstrom hopes will expand to more hospitals.

“When you're in this position you want to do whatever you can to help your child, and sometimes we're limited besides holding and talking to our child so this is just one more thing that we can do for them,” said Springer.

Grant has a two-and a half year old sister at home, so his mom says she hopes music therapy will help get him ready to move in, and adjust to a life that's a little bit louder.

Springer says Grant could be released from the hospital as early as Thursday or Friday.