Mom’s voice may help babies sleep better in the NICU

Infants in the NICU were more likely to stay asleep during recordings of their mothers reading, finds new research.

Babies who spend their first days or weeks of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit may not sleep as soundly as those who go home.

Now, researchers are examining whether one simple difference could help soothe these infants to sleep: the sound of their mother’s voice.

When they were played recordings of their mothers reading children’s books, babies in the NICU slept better and woke up less often, according to a new abstract presented at the annual meeting for Sleep Medicine.

“In the hospital, we take care of babies who are not in their usual environment, which can hinder their ability to have normal sleep,” says lead author Renée Shellhaas, M.D., M.S., a pediatric neurologist at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“Even though we do our best to make the ICU as quiet an environment as possible, there are hospital disruptions that are unavoidable. Alarms, monitors, ventilators, bedside care and even just the building’s heating and cooling noises may be disruptive. We designed this study to see how the sound environment in the NICU potentially influences sleep and to see if there are relatively simple interventions that may make a difference.”

“What we found was that babies in the NICU were more likely to stay asleep when the recordings of their mothers’ voices played than they were without them.”

"If we can find simple tools to help babies in the unit get higher quality sleep, they could make a big difference to infants’ health and development, especially for those who must stay in the hospital for an extended time."

 

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
labblog.uofmhealth.org/rounds/moms-voice-may-help-babies-sleep-better-nicu