“I often see (premature babies) start to open their eyes, they orient themselves toward the music and touch, and they’ll even make little cooing sounds or start giving big smiles,” TMH music therapist Ciele Gutierrez said.

In-home music therapists will help babies during their first six months outside of the hospital. According to TMH, it’s dangerous for babies to be in public during that time because their lungs still haven’t matured.

“If I’m working with an infant who’s had a painful procedure and is distraught, then I need to change the music’s volume, tempo and style to help the baby feel calm and fall asleep,” FSU music professor Jayne Standley said.

Standley’s research shows the therapy helps ease babies off of ventilators and helps them eat sooner. The researchers found over time babies would associate music with needing to suck to feed—teaching many newborns how to eat on their own.

Music therapist Ciele Gutierrez helps apply Standley’s research to babies in the NICU. (Dave Barfield/Lonely Fox Studios)

“We were astonished that babies at 34 gestational weeks could so quickly learn this feeding skill with reinforcement from music and that it transferred immediately to an actual feeding intervention. The babies were discharged almost immediately after a 30-minute intervention,” Standley said.