Every day thousands of babies are born premature. It is a bittersweet moment for parents, feeling the joy of bringing a child into the word, but fearing it was too soon for their baby’s survival.
Terry Rubin and his wife experienced this type of heartache when their son, Bradley, was born 11 weeks early. Rubin’s wife was only 29 weeks along.
Rubin’s wife called him on December 12 saying that her water had broken. Early the next morning she delivered 2 pound, 11 ounce Bradley, whose name wasn’t even picked out yet at the time of his birth.
Bradley struggled for the first several weeks of his life. In the neonatal intensive care unit, he was hooked up to tubes and wires that kept him alive.In order to be able to go home, Bradley would need to hit several milestones. He would need to be able to breathe on his own, suck and swallow on his own, and gain weight at a consistent rate.
Doctors and nurses estimated that Bradley would spend another 10-16 weeks in the NICU. It was during a time visiting his son in the NICU that Rubin met an interesting woman.
She approached him, guitar in hand, and asked if he would like her to play music for Bradley. She explained that she was part of the hospital’s music therapy program and that music was proven to help soothe babies in the NICU.
Intrigued by this idea, Rubin wanted to find out more. He talked to a fellow parent, Evelyn Gama, who also had a child in the NICU.
Gama’s son, Henry, was born a whopping 14 weeks early. Not even weighing 2 pounds, Gama strongly believed that music therapy was crucial to helping her son gain strength and eventually leave the NICU sooner than expected.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2013 scientifically backs up the claim. Playing music for newborns can help improve breathing, feeding, and sleeping.
Music therapists typically have a Master’s degree in their field and go through an extensive internship process at hospitals. You won’t see this at many hospitals, however, because a full music therapy staff can be over a $100,00 investment.
Families that do participate in music therapy for their infant often find it is a way to bond with their newborn. Families are asked to select a cultural song or song with personal meaning that they can sing or hum to their baby once they are out of the hospital.
Music therapists calm the babies during crying fits or times of high heart rate by playing with the baby’s rhythm. By following the baby’s lead, the music therapist can stabilize the heart or comfort the child.
Music therapy is also being tried on oncology patients and a research study has been launched to discover the effects of music on babies with addiction. For the Rubins, music therapy helped them bring their baby boy home and they now have several songs that are special to their family.