By Margarita Nahapetyan
Mounting evidence suggests that a sound of music can reduce pain in newborn babies during common medical procedures and encourage better oral feeding for premature babies. Music is increasingly being used in neonatal units, where the little patients are too vulnerable to be given some regular painkillers.
Many people find listening to music very relaxing, and there has been a lot of research done on the mater demonstrating that listening to music can lead to less problems associated with heart and feeling less pain even by very young listeners. That is why the investigators from the University of Alberta in Canada got interested if music may really have that effect on newborn babies when it comes to relieving pain during some routine procedures, such as having blood drawn from a heel prick (a common procedure for taking a blood sample from newborns), for example. In addition, the experts wanted also to find out if the use of music could help premature babies develop their sucking skills, so they could be better breastfed or take a bottle.
Out of more than 1,000 studies, the researchers selected nine trials that were published between 1989 and 2006, in order to analyze in detail the effect of music on feeding rates and on physiology and behaviors. The team focused particularly on several studies observing music that was played to newborns during painful procedures such as circumcisions and heel prick tests. Some of the studies used lullabies with or without added sounds, such as heartbeats or womb noises, and one of them used live music. Some hospitals were using music by some of the great composers, like Mozart. Based on their analysis, the experts from Canada found the following:
According to one of the studies, newborn babies experienced less pain, had lower heart rates and showed better oxygen levels in their blood if music was playing while they had a procedure of heel prick. The results of another study revealed that there were significant improvements among premature babies who were older than thirty one weeks, but not among babies who were younger.
One good-quality study demonstrated that newborn babies expressed less pain, had lower heart rates and better levels of oxygen if music was playing during the procedure of circumcision. Two other investigations showed that playing music did not appear to make any difference, but those studies were very small studies and not well done.
Many pre-term babies have a hard time breastfeeding or using a bottle because they experience difficulties with sucking coordination, as well as with swallowing and breathing. While carrying out one experiment, the experts gave some babies a dummy that was playing lullabies when sucked. those babies who used this special experiment tool improved their feeding habits, compared to those who did not use the dummy.
Overall, the researchers came to the conclusion that music may help newborn babies, but many of the studies reviewed were not of a good quality.The study authors, Dr. Manoj Kumar and his colleagues, said that there is preliminary evidence to suggest that "music may have beneficial effects in terms of physiological parameters, behavioral states and pain reduction during painful medical procedures." The experts added that larger and better-quality trials are needed to confirm the therapeutic benefits of music for specific indications and to find out the best ways to use music.
The findings are published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal.