Even the Beatles would have had trouble recognizing their peppy song in the lullaby Andrea Zalkin sang to the fragile baby clutched to her chest in the neonatal unit. But there was something unintentionally poignant in the title she chose for her son: “Eight Days a Week” is more time than can fit on the calendar.
Zalkin’s baby, Hudson, born 13 weeks early, has had too little time.
As she sang, monitors showed Hudson’s heartbeat slowing and his oxygen saturation increasing. Effects like that were among the findings of a study on the use of music as medicine.
Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City led the research, conducted in 11 hospitals, which found that live music can be beneficial to premature babies. The researchers concluded that live music, played or sung, helped to slow infants’ heartbeats, calm their breathing, improve sucking behaviors, aid sleep and promote states of quiet alertness. Researchers say that by stabilizing vital signs, music can allow infants to devote more energy to normal development.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, adds to growing research on music and preterm babies. Some hospitals find music as effective as, and safer than, sedating infants before procedures like heart sonograms and brain monitoring. Some neonatologists say babies receiving music therapy leave hospitals sooner, which can aid development and family bonding and save money.
New York Times