Heartbeat Mix is Music to Preemies' Ears

Preterm babies hearing moms voice and heartbeat have fewer heart and breathing problems

(RxWiki News) There's no place like home, but for newborns, there's no going back to the womb. Rocking out to mama music, however, appears to be good for their health, especially for preemies.

Listening to recordings of their mother's voice and heartbeat were shown in a recent study to reduce periods of slowed heart rate and paused breathing for babies born very early.

"Expose preemies to the mother's voice and heartbeat regularly."

Amir Lahav, Sc.D., Ph.D., director of the Neonatal Research Lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wanted to find out whether exposing infants to sounds of the mother might help improve outcomes.

Lahav and colleagues conducted a study involving 14 extremely premature babies, born between 26 and 32 weeks, which is at least six weeks early.

Babies born this early very often have breathing and heart problems, including short periods of paused breathing for at least 20 seconds and periods of a slower heart rate.

Each baby had his or her own personal soundtrack prepared using the voice and heartbeat of his or her mother. They called the audio track a maternal sound simulation (MSS).

The soundtrack was played four times a day while the baby was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), pumped into the incubator with a miniature audio system.

The researchers discovered that the newborns had fewer periods of slowed heart rate or stopped breathing while listening to their momma's soundtrack compared to simply hearing the standard sounds of a hospital.

The reduction in cardiorespiratory events became statistically significant for infants born at 33 weeks or later, perhaps because these babies are more likely to have more fully developed hearing.

"Our findings show that there may be a window of opportunity to improve the physiological health of these babies born prematurely using non-pharmalogical treatments, such as auditory stimulation," Lahav said.

He said the findings "are promising in showing that exposure to MSS could help preterm infants in the short-term by reducing cardiorespiratory events."

The biggest limitation to this study was the small number of infants studied, so the researchers suggest additional research to see if the audio intervention might be shown in larger groups to help preemies.

The study appeared online in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine. The research was funded by the Christopher Joseph Concha Foundation, Hailey's Hope Foundation, Capita Foundation, Heather on Earth Foundation, John Alden Trust, Learning Disabilities Foundation of America, LifeSpan HealthCare and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation and Phillips Heathcare.

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Review Date: 
March 11, 2012