Hospital’s New Pacifier-Activated Lullaby Device Improves Reflexes for Premature Newborns

The soothing power of lullabies is undisputed, and now a few lucky new parents have an even greater incentive to belt out Bob Marley songs.

UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital recently began testing pacifier-activated lullaby (PAL) device, which plays parents’ recorded lullabies whenever the baby successfully sucks on the pacifier. The device, which can be used by all babies, is especially helpful for preemies born before 34 weeks gestation who haven’t developed reflexes to suck or swallow.

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Jana and Greg work with a music therapist on a personalized version of “Three Little Birds.” The song is loaded onto a pacifier and plays while the baby sucks (photo credit: UCLA).

To get the song on the pacifier, parents work with music therapists in the neonatal intensive care unit, who help them write and record a special lullaby. That song plays when the baby sucks on the pacifier and stops when they stop sucking.

According to Jenna Bollard, expressive arts therapies manager at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, who conducted the research, simply hearing their parents’ voices is an incentive to keep sucking. And for the parents, it’s a huge stress relief.

Just ask Jana and Greg (pictured), whose triplets were born eight weeks early. After working with music therapists to record a personalized version of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” they laid down the track and loaded it onto the PAL device. During the triplets’ 52 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, the device helped them improve and grow.

And that’s something to sing about.

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