Half a million premature babies are born in the United States every year. To continue the development that should have happened in the womb, many spend their first few months of life in intensive care. That can mean a bigger risk of infections and a bigger hospital bill, but one doctor believes lullabies could reduce the chances of both and she's got the proof to back it up.
Rachel Shrier has emotional recording sessions. She sings lullabies for her son John. He was born 16 weeks early.
"He weighed one pound eight ounces," said Shrier.
Nathalie Maitre, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, told Ivanhoe that the problem with preemies is, "they don't know how to suck to get food, to swallow that food, and to breathe while they're swallowing it."
She believes moms' voices can be the motivation needed. Rachel'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," Maitre said.
However, if John doesn't do it right, the singing stops.
"He can correlate the sucking with hearing my voice," Shrier said.
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 they're at much less risk of infection," Maitre said.
The doctor says the pacifier device she uses is already on the market so the music therapy could be put in place at other hospitals with music and feeding specialists. With neonatal intensive care costing thousands of dollars a day, the Pacifier Therapy could save the healthcare system up to tens of thousands of dollars for every premature baby it helps.