Piloting Music Therapy Support for Preterm Infant Non-Nutritive Suck and Caregiver (Jenna Bollard, MA, MT-BC, CCLS, NICU-MT, RMT, Isabell Purdy Ph.D., NP, Kristina Casale, MT-BC, and Sandra Cheah, MT-BC)

Introduction: Premature infants cared for in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) may experience simple and complex health issues that impact oral motor and suck-swallow coordination. Parent caregivers and NICU healthcare team members alike work hard and closely monitor infant weight gain oral feeding skills that ultimately improve weight gain needed for intact survival. Often delays in feeding are due to poor suck and swallow coordination. This delay may lead to slower weight gain and extended hospitalization. Investigating methods to improve preterm infant oral motor skills. Challenges with oral feeding and the many other medical complications that caregivers of premature infants’ face can often place a tremendous strain on caregiver mental health and stress levels. According to previous research, 40% of NICU mothers experience postpartum depression(PPD), and NICU mothers are at much higher risk of developing PPD than mothers who have infants outside of the NICU (Tahirkheli, 2014). Studies also show that up to 60% of NICU fathers experience depressive symptoms at baseline. Up to one-quarter of mothers on the NICU may experience symptoms of PTSD (Lee, 2015). Music Therapy, as a well-established evidence-based profession of credentialed clinical providers, develop therapeutic relationships to provide developmental, rehabilitative, psychosocial, emotional, and symptom management to support neonates and their families. Music therapists use developmentally appropriate music interventions. This study aims to evaluate the use of a nonpharmacological family-centered method of offering oral motor support to premature infants and psychosocial support to families and caregivers. The Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) is an FDA approved device (Standley, 2012). PAL provides developmentally appropriate lullaby music that includes the ability to use the caregiver’s voices and personalized recorded lullabies as a positive reinforcement measure to entrain and reinforce a non-nutritive sucking response among infants in NICU (Standley, 2012). The PAL intervention, extensively studied nationwide, was identified for improving nonnutritive sucking endurance, increased infant weight gain, and decrease the length of hospitalization ( REF & date). The aim of this study was to pilot a Music Therapist driven approach to utilizing the PAL in NICU with babies and their families to identify benefits to preterm infants and their caregiver parents.