Specialties in Music Therapy: Supporting Babies and Families in the NICU
“Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development.” – Dr. Clive Robbins
Music therapy in neonatal care provides an opportunity to use music to support infants and families throughout their time at the hospital. It provides safe stimulation through modified live music—such as humming, gentle guitar, and lullaby-style singing—that supports infants self-soothing and promotes comfort, stability, sleep, relaxation, and caregiver-infant bonding.
Tyler Reidy, one of Grand River Hospital’s six music therapists, has specialized training in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) — Music Therapy, which is an approach to working with premature infants and families in the NICU. He knows, firsthand, what a difference music therapy can make when a baby requires intensive care.
“I recall one patient that I worked with who was less than a few weeks old and received a painful diagnosis and required symptom management,” said Tyler. “Music became a beacon of bonding, a support of regulation, and a place of safety. I remember that music helped the baby relax and sleep. It helped rhythmically regulate their heart rate and breath”
But music therapy doesn’t only help patients: it can also be a great help and comfort for a patient’s family members and loved ones.
Parent-infant bonding is at the core of music therapy in the NICU, with sessions taking place during kangaroo care or at the isolette. Caregivers learn safe ways of using their own voice to create personalized lullabies that they can sing to their babies to support their care. Music therapy can also help them cope with and process the challenges of having an infant in the hospital.
“I created a recording of the baby’s heartbeat and looped an audio recording for a legacy gift to the family prior to [the baby’s] passing,” Tyler recalled. “It was a beautiful reminder of how rhythm is rooted in our most basic rhythm: our body, the sound of our heart, and now we have the technology and an opportunity to create a legacy out of it. Heartbeat recordings have continued to be a part of my work ever since”
Tyler is currently initiating a new music therapy program at Grand River Hospital’s KW Campus in the inpatient and outpatient children’s units, and the newly established NICU music therapy program is only the third of its kind in the province.
“I can’t think of a more special place than being able to create meaningful musical experiences with individuals who are in very vulnerable and frightening times in their lives and being able to make them more tolerable, normalized and safe,” said Tyler.
You, too, have the power to bring comfort and connection to babies and families receiving care in the NICU: donate to music therapy at Grand River Hospital.