Sing to Your Baby!

Posted by admin on Nov 23, 2009 in NICU, Preemie |
(Reprinted with permission from
by Candy Campbell, DNPc, MSN-HCSM, RN, CNL
AWHONN’s Neonatal Nurse Expert
Premature infants thrive when parents spend lots of time interacting with them.
NICU parents: Do you feel anxious, frustrated, aching to do more for your premature baby’s growth and development besides pump that milk, and sit and stare?

You are not alone.


There is still much to learn, but every year researchers add to the evidence that premature infants thrive when parents interact with them. Each minute your preemie’s brain is making 200,000+ neural connections; early recognition of you as parent is key. Now we know that singing or humming to your baby elicits different but equally positive results that sounds from a non-parent or instrumental music alone cannot do.


If your baby is in the NICU, you’re likely to be asked to provide skin-to-skin holding, massage, and to read to your baby. Now, research is adding the benefits of adding humming or singing to your nurturing activities. And you’re in luck—you don’t need any special equipment, yet maybe you think, “I can’t sing!” Interestingly, babies don’t seem to mind the quality of the voice, as long as it is familiar and not too loud. So go ahead, hum a few bars…


As you belt one out, you may worry about “over-stressing” your preemie. Understanding her “stress cues” is the first step to knowing how to interact and improvise musically with your child. You don’t have to rhyme, and you needn’t make sense. Just go with the flow and see what happens. For instance, if baby is sleepy, hum a lullaby. If she’s awake, sing about what you feel, or see. Then pause. Wait for her response, and take it from there.


Psychologists tell us that quantity plus quality time are important prerequisites for establishing emotional bonds. Plan to spend as much time with your baby as possible. That’s a tall order if you have other children, or if you live far from the NICU, but well worth calling in the troops of willing friends and relations for help. Your presence is ultimately therapeutic for both you and your child. So hum or sing to your baby, and she may come home sooner than you think!


  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Increased weight gain
  • Increased oxygen saturation
  • Increased sucking
  • Decreased stress cues


  • Their mother’s voice over any other
  • Sung versus spoken words
  • Music; it encourages sucking behaviors
  • Singing; it strengthens their brain’s language paths
  • Humming; it strengthens music and rhythm paths

Candace Campbell, MSN-HCSM, RN, has practiced as a NICU nurse, and educator for 20 years and is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby magazine and
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