Standley (2011) A Discussion of Evidence-Based Music Therapy to Facilitate Feeding Skills of Premature Infants: The Power of Contingent Music

literature type:

journal article


Jayne M. Standley. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2012; Vol. 39, No. 5: pp 379–382.


Due to neurologic immaturity, premature infants must be fed by tube until approximately 34 gestational weeks and many have subsequent problems with transition to oral feeding. In the United States, infants whose only problem is ineffective feeding remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at an average cost of $2000/day until independent nippling with regular weight gain is achieved. This is a serious and prevalent problem that increases medical costs and risk of developmental delays. Research shows that infants generally thrive more in the home with home-based nursing support and medical monitoring than in the hospital and the earliest possible discharge date is preferred.

The appearance of the non-nutritive sucking reflex is an indication of physiologic maturation that can be affected by learning experiences. One learning experience, music reinforcement activated by pacifier sucking, can facilitate feeding ability of premature infants. Contingent music for non-nutritive sucking increases sucking frequency, duration, and endurance leading quickly to proficient nippling and earlier discharge. This article discusses the feeding problems of premature infants and provides an overview of the research and the clinical applications of using contingent music to facilitate feeding.


arts categories:


population(s) served:

very young children