Health Beat: Lullabies for baby John: Singing moms help preemies eat

Health Beat: Singing moms help preemies

A half-million premature babies are born in the United States every year. Many spend weeks, even months, in intensive care, but a new therapy hopes to change that.

They say there's something special about the bond between a mother and her baby, but that bond could be more than just nurturing, but also healing.

Rachel Shrier is sitting in a room, signing into a recorder. She's singing for her son, John, who was born 16 weeks early. 

"He weighed one pound eight ounces," said Shrier, whose singing could train him to eat.

Vanderbilt Dr. Nathalie Maitre said preemies have a lot to learn. 

"They don't know how to suck to get food, to swallow that food, and to breathe while you're swallowing it," she explained.  She now thinks that moms' voices can be the motivation needed.

Shrier's songs are plugged into a special pacifier device.

"If the baby is sucking at the right rhythm and strength, it plays mom's voice singing," explained Maitre. 

If the baby doesn't do it right, the singing stops.

"He can correlate the sucking with hearing my voice," said Shrier.

A new study shows premature babies who received the therapy 15 minutes a day for five consecutive days ate faster and went home up to 14 days sooner than other preemies.

"They grow better and then they're at much less risk of infection," said Maitre.

Shrier hopes it will help baby John, too.

The doctor said the pacifier device she uses is already on the market, so the music therapy could be put in place at other hospitals.

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