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Clinical Services: Infants, Children & Teens

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Image: Louis Armstrong

About the NICU
Premature births, one out of every eight births in the United States have increased in excess of 30% since 1981, and are noted by Research America as the greatest risk factor associated with infant mortality.

The NICU at Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit, and is included as part of The Combined Department of Pediatrics. This unit provides cutting-edge services for prematurely born infants and full-term infants who are otherwise medically compromised.

An inter-disciplinary team comprised of doctors, nurses, medical specialists, social workers, physical therapists, chaplains, patient-care representatives, and music therapists works collaboratively to address the psycho-social needs of the parent/child unit, as well as the acute medical needs of the infant.

In addition to prematurity, infants in the NICU may suffer from difficulties that include but are not limited to: Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Clinical Sepsis, Hyperbilirubinemia (poor kidney functioning), and/or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Music Therapy in the NICU
Fetal hearing capacity is noted to develop in the womb at approximately 19 weeks gestation. The womb is known to be full of sound, such as the mother's heartbeat, the movement of fluid in the uterus, and the flow of blood through the placenta. The use of music and music therapy with infants who, for various reasons, leave the womb environment prematurely, can provide a bridge to familiar sounds of the womb and be beneficial in many ways.

Music therapy services provided by expertly trained members of The Louis and Lucille Armstrong Music Therapy team utilize live sound and music to replicate the auditory environment found in the womb. By re-creating a womb-like environment through sound and music, music therapy has been shown to deepen infant sleep-state, support infant self-regulation, assist in the stabilization of breathing and heart rates, enhance parent/infant bonding, sooth irritability, re-enforce feeding/sucking rhythms and weight gain, and promote a sense of safety during painful procedures.

Clinical services in the NICU include:

  • Daily individual music therapy sessions at the bedside for infants and/or caregivers
  • Bonding experiences for parents of newborns through the creative use of womb sounds (placenta sounds and heart rhythms) as well as parent-made lullaby tapes for babies
  • Pain Management: procedural music therapy using live music to support infants undergoing blood-draws, needle sticks, suctioning, pre-/post-operative pain and anxiety, and more. Release/entrainment and/or relaxation/meditation with live music is provided to ease pain experience.
  • Bi-weekly groups for new parents and caregivers, informing families about how music can be effectively used for transitions, motoric play, enhancement of crying/comfort sounds, separations/sleep, feeding, enhancement of quiet-alert and sleep states, as well as bonding
  • Environmental Music Therapy (EMT), using live music to address a sometimes chaotic intensive care environment, helping to create a less tense atmosphere

Enroll in Our Study
Our program is both based on scientific research and invested in research development. Starting in September 2006, our specialist-level music therapy team is leading seven other sites in a study investigating the effects of music therapy interventions for premature infants in the Heather on Earth Multi-Site NICU study. This two-year study explores the use of live music with premature infants having respiratory distress, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, clinical sepsis, and/or small for gestational age diagnoses. Prior research conducted by this department in the NICU includes “The Effects of Music Therapy on the Sound Environment in the NICU: A Pilot Study” see (Publications & Research).

More pages on NICU Music Therapy at Beth Israel:

Related Research and Articles
For articles from peer-reviewed journals, research studies and authoritative literature, please see the bibliographies in the Suggested Reading section. Additional information is available through Websites listed on the Related Links page.

For Questions and Further Information
For questions and further information about music therapy or referrals for yourself, your loved ones or your patients, please call (212) 420-2704 or email info@musicandmedicine.org.

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