Special Report: How Music Therapy Shortens NICU Stays

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The soft sounds of lullabies trickled out of newborn Jace Jewett's crib at Ministry Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital in Marshfield. Jace and his brother Oakley are twins.

Jace and Oakley used a special pacifier to help them learn how to better suck, swallow, and breathe. The Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) System works by playing a soothing, reinforcing lullaby when the boys suck. The specially wired, pressure-sensitive pacifier stops playing when the infant stops sucking.

Parents Brian and Andrea Jewett explained how the pacifier works.

“If they want the music, they keep sucking on the pacifier,” Andrea Jewett said.

Research showed preemies leave the hospital an average of 11 to 12 days sooner with the PAL, as opposed to those who do not receive the treatments.

The boys were born April 17 and weren't able to eat on their own.

“They were doing OK, but they weren't growing the way that they should of inside,” Andrea Jewett said.

At two weeks after birth, Jace Jewett weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces, and Oakley Jewett weighed 4 pounds 9 ounces.

"He (Jace) drank his whole bottle less than 10 minutes after we did the musical pacifier,” Andrea said.

Carolann Franke, board certified music therapist at Ministry Saint Joseph's. Franke said babies need to be able to eat on their own before they can go home.

“Sometimes it's the only thing they need to learn before going home," Franke said. "So, having that coordination is important for them."

The device teaches the baby proper feeding techniques.

"Whenever they (the baby/babies) show the correct coordination and the correct strength on the pacifier, it plays a soft lullaby for them," Franke said. "Whenever they (the baby/babies) stop doing the sucking motion, the music turns off.”

About 20-25 families used the device in Marshfield, and Franke said no family has ever declined it.

It's a $9,000 device, absolutely free to families. Parents can also record a song for the lullaby to play if they want to get more involved.