Singing pacifiers benefit preemies

7:41 PM, Feb 21, 2014   |    comments
A premature baby is given a pacifier equipped with the mother singing a lullaby. A Vanderbilt University study found babies who hear their mothers singing lullabies through these pacifiers learn to suckle better and have their feeding tubes removed sooner. (Photo: Handout via The Tennessean)
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NASHVILLE (The Tennessean) - Premature babies who hear their mothers singing lullabies through specially equipped pacifiers learn to suckle better and have their feeding tubes removed sooner, Vanderbilt University researchers have shown.

Results of a study conducted in the neonatal intensive care unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital were published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics. Inspired by other researchers who have studied the impact of classical music on babies, Dr. Nathalie Maitre of Vanderbilt came up with the idea of using mothers' voices.

The hospital tested 94 premature babies, half of whom were given pacifiers that rewarded them with recorded lullabies when they suckled properly. The other half heard lullabies from the parents the old-fashioned way and were given traditional pacifiers so there was no reward mechanism.

The babies with the special pacifiers had their feeding tubes removed a week earlier on average.

"The sensor in that pacifier only rewards if you are using it at just the right strength and the right rate," said Maitre. "Really, it is teaching babies about patterns and how strong they need to be. It's just not a reward for sucking. It's a reward for sucking the right way."

Newborns already recognize their mothers' voices, Maitre said.

"We included babies with severe brain injury in this study," Maitre said. "We showed that the intervention worked well on them, too."

During the time the study was conducted, Olena Chorna, a music therapist, taught mothers to sing two approved lullabies, "Hush Little Baby" and "Snuggle Puppy."

Maitre stressed the importance of parents singing to, talking with and engaging babies.

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