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Mother's voice 'aids pre-term babies' to suckle

Babies born pre-term make quicker progress if they hear their mother’s voice as part of interventional therapy, new research suggests.

Premature babies who experienced the regime, which combined a pacifier-activated music player with their mother’s voice, learned to eat more efficiently and had their feeding tubes removed sooner than other pre-term babies, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The randomised clinical trial was carried out at Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Researchers assessed 94 pre-term babies in the trial, who had all reached 34-36 weeks postmenstrual age, were in stable condition and were able to breathe on their own.

The babies were given the therapy for 15 minutes a day for five consecutive days.

If they sucked correctly on their pacifier, which was a special device with sensors and speakers, they were rewarded by the sound of their mother singing a simple lullaby chosen especially to suit the needs of the baby’s developing brain.

Whenever they stopped sucking, the music would stop playing.

Study author Dr Nathalie Maitre, assistant professor of Pediatrics, said: “A mother’s voice is a powerful auditory cue.

“Babies know and love their mother’s voice. It has proven to be the perfect incentive to help motivate these babies.”

The study team found that the premature babies given the pacifier intervention were able to have their feeding tubes removed about a week earlier than those not given the therapy.

They also reported clear evidence that the babies given the intervention ate more frequently, developed a stronger sucking ability and showed no signs of stress during their pacifier sessions.

It also appeared that they had shorter stays in hospital than the other babies.

Dr Maitre described the benefits of the therapy as “both medical and emotional”, adding: “This is a unique way for parents to directly help their children learn a skill crucial to their growth and development.

“It gives parents a small amount of control to improve their baby’s medical course, in addition to giving them a bonding experience which will last throughout childhood.”

Read the full story Pediatrics

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