PAL Technology Aids Premature Newborns
Little Riley Dillie probably didn’t realize when she was listening to her favorite lullaby, tucked snugly in her bassinet, she was actually learning the muscle movements needed to suck, and ultimately feed.
The daughter of Samantha Knoll, of Plainfield, was born prematurely, at just over 26 weeks. Riley spent several weeks that followed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
Like many preemies, Riley lacked the neurologic ability to coordinate a suck/swallow/breathe response to oral feedings. To help her in that effort, music therapists in the NICU used a Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL), a FDA-approved device that utilizes musical lullabies to reinforce the sucking/feeding process for pre-term babies.
“PAL uses a specially wired pacifier and speaker to play a lullaby every time a baby sucks on it correctly,” explains Carolann Franke, MT-BC, one of the certified music therapists in the NICU. “The lullabies are gentle and comforting to the baby, making them want to continue the sucking motion so they can hear more of the lullaby. We play three different songs, and it may be surprising, but each baby seems to have a preference, liking one more than the others.”
PAL therapy is used once a day for a 15-minute session and only used with babies who are medically stable and referred by their neonatologist, at least 34 weeks gestational age, and ready for oral feeding trials. Research has shown through the use of PAL, infants:
Can increase sucking pressure
Are able to take more oral feedings a day
Have a greater intake per minute and a higher total oral intake per day
Have an earlier transition to full oral feedings
Get discharged from the hospital earlier
PAL is one of several interventions used in the NICU. Therapists can also assist parents in making a recording of their voices singing a lullaby or reading a story to their infant. They can also provide live music for parents while they hold their baby and help them write a personalized song.
“It gives parents a chance to be an active part of the baby’s recovery,” Franke says. “Our role is to elevate healing and development in their baby, and help promote positive interactions.”
Soft lullabies have been found to promote sleep and help infants adjust to their environment.
“The end goal is to help these little ones get home sooner,” Franke adds.
Music therapy services and PAL therapy are provided through funds from the Children’s Miracle Network.
Published July 2015