Standley and Swedberg (2011) NICU Music Therapy: Post Hoc Analysis of an Early Intervention Clinical Program

literature type:

journal article


Jayne M. Standley and Olivia Swedberg. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2011; Vol. 38, No. 1: pp 36–40.


The incidence of premature births in the United States is increasing, as are medical costs related to this problem. Research has shown benefits for NICU-MT in small sample size, controlled clinical trials. Such benefits have included significantly earlier discharge dates and a consistent pattern of increases in weight gain that has not been statistically significant. As yet, no clinical analyses of the effects of NICU-MT have been conducted.

The clinical NICU-MT program at TMH has been in effect for over 7 years and includes referrals for multi-modal stimulation, Pacifier-Activated-Lullaby (PAL) treatment, and parent training in infant stimulation. We analyzed the medical records of all infants born low birth weight (<2499 g) and born prior to 36 gestation weeks who were treated in the NICU in 2006 (N = 208) with differentiation for receipt of NICU-MT or not. We excluded infants not discharged to the home but to another medical site for further treatment. This post hoc analysis of clinical records showed that the smallest, lowest birth-weight infants were more often referred for music therapy. Infants receiving NICU-MT gained more weight/day than did infants not referred for MT. Those born very early (24–28 gestational weeks) were discharged sooner than non-music infants in that age range. Infants born after 30 weeks and receiving MT had longer length of stay than non-music infants but they also were diagnosed with more serious illnesses. In summary, the demographics reveal that MT is primarily referred for premature, low birth-weight infants and those with multiple, serious medical problems.


arts categories:


population(s) served:

very young children