Purpose: To provide an overview of developmental and medical benefits of music therapy for preterm infants.

Design: Meta-analysis.

Sample: Empirical music studies with preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Main Outcome: Evidence-based NICU music therapy (NICU-MT) was highly beneficial with an overall large significant effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.82). Effects because of music were consistently in a positive direction.

Results: Results of the current analysis replicated findings of a prior meta-analysis and included extended use of music.


Benefits were greatest for live music therapy (MT) and for use early in the infant’s NICU stay (birth weight <1,000 g, birth postmenstrual age <28 weeks). Results justify strong consideration for the inclusion of the following evidence-based NICU-MT protocols in best practice standards for NICU treatment of preterm infants: music listening for pacification, music reinforcement of sucking, and music pacification as the basis for multilayered, multimodal stimulation.

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