Hospitals that play music to premature babies help them grow and thrive, mounting evidence suggests.
The benefits are said to be calmer infants and parents as well as faster weight gain and shorter hospital stays. A Canadian team reviewed nine studies and found music reduced pain and encouraged better oral feeding.
Music also appeared to have beneficial effects on physiological measures like heart and respiratory rate, Archives of Disease in Childhood reports. Increasing numbers of neonatal units are using music on their wards.
Six of the studies the University of Alberta team looked at music played to babies during painful procedures such as circumcisions and heel prick tests. One looked at the effect of music on feeding rates and the remaining two looked at the effect of music on physiology and behaviours. Most of the trials the researchers looked at used lullabies with or without added sounds, such as heartbeats or womb noises, and one used live music - a specially composed wordless lullaby sung by a female voice and accompanied by a harp. Other hospitals have been playing music by some of the great composers, like Mozart.