For Parents in the NICU

Mothers and fathers play an integral part in their infant’s progress while in the NICU.

 Newborn baby inside incubator

Ways of Providing Music to Your Baby in the NICU

Humming – Holding your baby skin to skin and chest to chest (kangaroo care), hum quietly to your baby. You can hum or ahh, the melody of a song or just vocalizations.

Singing – Sing a lullaby to your baby. A lullaby can be any song that is sung slowly, quietly, and with a steady, unchanging tempo.

Sing their name – Sing quietly your baby’s name while holding them chest to chest.

Record your voice –  Make a recording of your voice to play to your baby when you cannot be there with him. Read a story or poem, talk or sing.

Babies in the NICU are going through a crucial time in their lives and its important to be educated about how to handle your child safely.


Guidelines for music in the NICU:

  • Music must be played or sung at or below 65 db scale C – 55db scale A; and at 60bpm
  • Music should have a constant volume, stable rhythm, and sung in higher vocal ranges
  • Music should be sung a cappella or with only one instrument
  • Premature infants respond best to lullabies – slow, repetitive, soft, predictable, non-alarming
  • Should be provided individually to infant and not to whole NICU; and culturally sensitive
  • Should be female or child’s voice, especially that of the mother to promote bonding
  • Should be limited to 1 1/2 hours total in a day; 20-25 min segments

Baby, Father And Their Hand

Appropriate touch and interaction with your Premie

  • Touch should be gentle but firm enough to not tickle.
  • Build up tolerance to touch. Follow the appropriate order of touch (multimodal stimulation sequence)
  • Sing to your baby quietly and slowly
  • Talk gently to your baby saying his/her name
  • Avoid abrupt sounds and/or touch which may cause startle

Watch for negative signs of overstimulation

  • Startles
  • Sprayed fingers and toes
  • Stiff arms
  • Yawns
  • Arching back

Recommended Lullabies and CDs – Bonding

Note: These CDs are recommended for use with infants that are that are at home.  It is recommended that you select appropriate songs from these CDs for use in the NICU or consult with a Music Therapist. (See guidelines for music in the NICU.)

Suggested Recordings:

  • Dream Angels: Famous Orchestral Lullabies: Adelaide Symphony
  • Bedtime Songs For Babies: Blossom
  • Bedtime Songs For Babies: Lullaby Baby: John St. John
  • Baby’s Best Quiet Time Songs
  • The Most Soothing Lullabies in the Universe
  • Lullaby: A Collection
  • Disney’s Lullaby Album: Fred Mollin
  • Rainforest Music: Nature’s Lullabies: Fisher Price
  • Lullaby Favorites: Music for Little People
  • Transitions: Soothing Music for Crying Infants: Burt and Joe Wolff
  • Baby Sleep: Thomas Hampson
  • Transitions 2: Music to Help Baby Sleep: Burt and Joe Wolff
  • Dream a Little Dream: Burt and Joe Wolff
  • Lullaby Suite: Steven Halpern
  • Music for Babies: Steven Halpern
  • A Perfect Lullaby: Matt Logan, MT-BC
  • We Dream Vol 1 and 2: Ryan Judd, MT-BC


  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • He’s Got the Whole World
  • Hush Little Baby Don’t Say A Word
  • Baa, Baa Black Sheep
  • All Night, All Day
  • Old MacDonald
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Kum Ba Yah
  • Let Me Call You Sweetheart
  • Rock-A-Bye Baby
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  • What A Wonderful World
  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • All The Pretty Little Horses
  • Now The Day Is Over


Recommended Websites:

Lullaby Link:

My Baby Fingers: (Sign language for infants)

A Perfect Lullaby:

We Dream/Restful Sounds: (Instrumental guitar lullabies with ocean)


Research Sampling:

Collins SK, Kuck K. Music therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit. Neonatal Netw. 1991 Mar;9(6):23-6.

Marwick C. Music hath charms for care of preemies. JAMA. 2000 Jan 26;283(4):468-9.

Sagario D. Technology, music therapy give preemies an edge: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. June 11, 2007. Des Moines

Music Therapy with Premature Infants: Research and Developmental Interventions, Second Edition by Jayne M. Standley, Ph.D., MT-BC; 2010, American Music Therapy Association

In The News:

New musical pacifier helps premature babies get healthy | Florida State University invention now available to world’s neonatal units | Tom Butler, [email protected] | May 2012

New musical pacifier helps premature babies get healthy | Science Daily | May 21, 2012

The NBC Nightly News featured the use of Music Therapy in the NICU:

Recommended Products:IMG_0527

Sleep Sheep – Plays soothing sounds for better sleep

  •     Sleep – Mother’s Heartbeat
  •     Calm – Spring Showers
  •     Sleep – Ocean Waves
  •     Relax – Whale Songs

Two sleep-timer options: 23 and 45 minutes

Appropriate for use at home. For use in NICU please consult a Board Certified Music Therapist or talk to your NICU staff about playing Sleep Sheep for 23 minutes at a time 1-2 times a day.