Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Music Therapy for Your Preemie

Our NICU experience came with a lot of “Boy, I wish I had known that earlier…” moments.  Music therapy falls into that category!

We were told about our hospital’s music therapy program a few months after our daughter was born.  The therapy team was a group of musicians who traveled around the hospital, playing music for the children.  In the NICU, she sat on the floor by Addie and sang her “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and other play songs and lullabies.  It was a fun experience for us both that made me forget, however momentarily, all that we had been through.  We were just a mom and daughter enjoying some good music.

The therapy team also checked out iPods and speakers to families who requested them.  There were none available when we asked, so I simply went to the store and purchased a small CD player and put it into her crib.  We put the volume low to keep it from bothering other families, but I’ve heard of other families using headphones.

One of our readers, Brynn, left a similar tip on our Facebook page:

One of our NICU nurses recommended that we buy a tiny Voice Recorder and on it record stories, prayers, songs, whatever we wanted. Then we took it into the NICU, she sterilized it and put it in a bag in his incubator. On his chart it was written that the nurse on duty play it for him at least 3 times per shift…especially in times when he was “De-sating”. After about a week or two, every time the nurses played it, our voices began to calm him down, we became the consistent presence for him the only way we could. About three weeks after this started, I walked into the NICU, leaned down by the incubator and said his name. In less than one second his eyes snapped open and he stared at me. He recognized my voice. In the midst of our frustration that we couldn’t help him the way a parent should, we found a way that only we could. We made a connection…it was the best thing we could have ever done for him.

Another idea to consider is the new Recordable Storybook at Hallmark*.  There are currently 10 titles available, including my favorite, All The Ways I Love You.  I can imagine a parent or grandparent recording their voice and leaving the book in the NICU for the nurse to play when the baby needs a little extra love.

For more information on the benefits of music therapy for preemies, I found this article to be both interesting and helpful: How Music Therapy Helps Preemies (updated 9/5/13)

* For full disclosure, I am employed by Hallmark.  I am not receiving any additional compensation for including Recordable Storybooks in my post—I just think it’s a great product that preemie families can use.  🙂  We also are not receiving any compensation for our link to the voice recorder; it is meant as an example only.

Did you play music or leave other recordings of your voice for your preemie in the NICU?  I’d love to hear your stories!


  1. I wish that I had left a recording of my voice for my baby to listen to when I wasn’t there. It would have made me feel so much better when I was away, knowing she could hear my voice. I had never heard of anyone leaving voice recordings, but the lady next to me left a CD player with soft music that played for her baby sometimes while I was there. I thought that was sweet, but I didn’t have a small CD player or anything and never had the chance to shop… frankly I just didn’t make it happen. Unfortunately, I was a little embarrassed to do something like that, and thought that maybe it was annoying to the nurses and other parents. I shouldn’t have cared about that.

    I think a voice recording is a wonderful idea.

  2. I picked up a cheap pair of portable speakers for my ipod. They folded up small enough to put in my purse. I used to sing “I hope you dance” to Drake while I was pregnant so I kept it up in the NICU and played it very quietly in his incubator.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with music in the NICU. I wish I had a nickel for all the times I heard “I wish we knew this before…” Totally hear you there! The voice recorder is a GREAT helpful tool, and there’s even more ways we can use music to accelerate weight gain, decrease distress behaviors, increase O2 levels, etc…

    There’s a list of 46 hospitals in the world that provide music therapy in the NICU on my site. Just click “NICU Infants.” Also, there is a specialty training for board-certified music therapists to go through offered through Florida State. We are few, but increasing in numbers.

    Again, thanks for mentioning the importance of the usage of music in the NICU. This is such an important topic!

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