New technology has surfaced; a singing pacifier, could mean shorter hospital stays for premature babies. Recent studies have shown that babies develop faster when they hear their mothers voice. Studies have shown that premature babies cognitive development is tied into how much adult speech they hear. One study that came out in the last month showed that hearing adults talk could greatly improve language-learning skills in premature babies. The latest study though is giving parents of premature babies hope for shorter hospital stays. Hearing mom sing could actually help baby learn how to feed.
At Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital’s in Nashville Tennessee, Dr. Nathalie Maitre is the senior author on a new study. One that looked at babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), who learned how to feed by hearing their mom’s voice singing in a pacifier. Dr. Maitre said that this new research reiterated what doctors already knew about how important the parent’s voice is on a child’s development.
In this new study, researchers used new technology, a pacifier-activated device that mom could record a lullaby into. The baby was then monitored, when baby suckled on the pacifier it activated the song, when they stopped suckling the music stopped. Researchers monitored a hundred premature infants who were born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. For the purpose of the study the babies had to stay in the NICU, they were given the pacifier along with skin-to-skin contact. The babies were also introduced to breastfeeding gradually. Half of the babies received the pacifier with a recording of mom’s voice singing “Hush Little Baby”. Each of the babies in the study had the device for 15 minutes a day for five days.
At the end of the five-day experiment researchers found that both groups of babies gained the same amount of weight. However, babies with the pacifier learned to eat faster than the group without the pacifier. They also found that the group with the pacifier was able to eat without a feeding tube, six and a half times a day, whereas the other group could only eat four times a day without the feeding tube. Finally the group with the pacifier, only used a feeding tube for 31 days, seven days less than the other group. By using this singing pacifier, researchers believe that hospital stays could be shorter for premature babies, this could mean an overall healthier infant.
Amy Needham from Vanderbilt University said that doctors and researchers understand that newborn infants recognize their mother’s voice. She goes on to say that full term babies recognize the mom’s voice because they have ample time to hear it and learn what it sounds like. She hypothesizes that the pacifier works to reinforce the behavior of sucking. The pacifier, called a PAL was invented by Jayne M. Standley. In an interview Standly stated that there were many benefits associated with shorter hospital stays for premature babies. While she invented the PAL she did not participate in the study. For the study, the pacifier measured rhythm and pressure of sucking.
Maitre said that while the studies continue the most important thing parents can do is spend time with their infants, singing and talking to them. If a parent wants to use a PAL device at their hospital they should talk to a therapist, who can help with the recording. While the pacifiers are available commercially and not very expensive, Maitre said, they still need to be monitored and administrated by a professional. Premature babies benefit greatly from shorter hospital stays, which is why researchers encourage interaction such as singing, the pacifier is just one more way that could help.
By Rachel Woodruff