Mother’s voice on pacifiers may help preemies learn to eat faster: study

Mother’s voice on pacifiers may help preemies learn to eat faster: study

Premature babies who receive an interventional therapy combining their mother's voice and a pacifier-activated music player learn to eat more.

Many babies respond positively to their mother’s voice, but researchers have found that a specially designed pacifier that plays pre-recorded songs by the baby’s mother can encourage premature babies to eat.

The new study shows that this pacifier-activated recording can allow the premature baby to leave the hospital earlier than it otherwise would have.

This is a big step for healthcare providers all over the country, especially those who directly care for premature babies. Many premature babies require a prolonged stay in the hospital because they have not yet developed the necessary strength and coordination to feed themselves. Babies that are unable to feed must often stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, where they rely on a feeding tube.

Dr. Nathalie Maitre, the study’s lead author and director of the neonatal intensive care unit follow-up clinics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital, explains that babies that were born need to learn how to “coordinate sucking, swallowing their own saliva and breathing.” She says that this combination can be tough for the babies to learn, and the process is exhausting.

Although non-nutritive sucking on a pacifier has helped babies learn the feeding process over the past decade, Maitre and a team of researchers wanted to find out if there was a faster and more effective way to teach babies how to feed.

For the study, Maitre used an FDA-approved pacifier that was equipped with a sensor that activated a prerecorded song or story when the baby used proper technique and sufficient strength. Combined with previous knowledge that babies are generally very responsive to their mother’s voice, the team added pre-recorded voices from the moms.

The study involved around 100 babies, all of whom were between 34 and 35 weeks of age. Half of the babies were placed into the prerecorded pacifier song group, while the other half did not have pacifiers. Those who were rewarded with their mother’s voice mastered the feeding process faster than the babies without the song rewards.

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