Controlled trial of live versus recorded lullabies in preterm infants


Almost everyone has seen a baby light up when listening to or experiencing music. Ever wonder if recorded music or live music is better for babies? Grunkstiene, Buinauskiene, Uloziene, and Markuniene looked into the effects of live and recorded music on stable, premature babies. Preterm infants are sensitive and can be overstimulated easily. Music is a way to appropriately stimulate these infants in a safe way. This can help stimulate healthy development and improve their vitals (such as heart rate and oxygen levels) while also decreasing stress or pain during procedures. When vitals are improves and stress is decreased, the infant has more energy to grow and mature.

In this study, 35 infants (with the approval of their parents) either experiences recorded lullabies, live lullabies, or no music (as a control). A music therapist chose lullabies from multiple countries and the babies were separated into the experience groups at random. All lullabies were played around 60-80 beats per minutes (close to the speed of human heartbeat), were sung by a female, and no accompanying instruments were used in order to maintain consistency among the music treatments. During the live lullabies, the music therapist adjusted the music to the infant’s needs. For instance, if the infant’s breathing rate increased or cried/was anxious, the music therapist would slow the tempo, lower the vocal timbre, etc.

This study found that infant heart rates significantly decreased during and after live and the recorded lullabies in comparison to the no music control group. The researchers also found that the positive changes in response to music occurred more quickly in sessions when live music was used. No significant changes in oxygen saturation (the quality of the infant’s’ breathing) were found. The live music, however, was the only music experience that made a significant different on quality of sleep in the infants. Deeper sleep is important for weight gain and growth, which is especially important for preterm infants. ‘

This study shows that most lullabies, recorded or live, can benefit babies. However, live music may be more beneficial, especially when it comes to sleep quality and how quickly you want to see results. So your favorite lullaby CDs are helping your baby, but nothing compares to the live voices of mom, dad, or other family members. For more information on how music therapy can help you, your baby, or your family, please continue to or visit


Jessica S. Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Garunkstiene R, Buinauskiene J, Uloziene I, Markuniene E (2014) Controlled trial of live versus recorded lullabies in preterm infants. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy; 23;1;71-88.