Does Replicating Biological Maternal Sounds During NICU Hospitalizations Positively Affect Weight Gain in VLBW Infants?


Very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants (≤1,500 g) particularly are at risk for developing growth deficiencies from insufficient nourishment during the first 28 days of life, collectively known as the neonatal period. This inadequate nutrition could lead to harmful growth and psychomotor effects that can continue through childhood and even into adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) committee on nutrition has recognized the crucial need for early, adequate nutrition for preterm infants. This committee recommends that NICU incubators should attempt to replicate the womb in order for weight gain to equal the intrauterine growth velocity of a fetus at an equivalent gestational age (GA).

Though previous studies have demonstrated positive, short-term health effects of soothing sounds in NICUs on preterm infants, a new study took a more thorough approach to attain comprehensive, data-driven evidence. This study was designed to examine whether replicating the womb environment in NICU incubators through the mimicking of biological maternal sounds (BMS) would have a positive impact on the weight gain velocity of VLBW infants. Unlike the previous studies, researchers examined three overlapping, key factors. They observed only VLBW infants born <33 weeks’ GA, focused on the entire first 28 days of life and used attenuated recordings of the infant’s mother’s voice and heartbeat to simulate the womb environment. Results showed a significant, positive impact on growth though the researchers state that further research still is warranted.

To learn more, please read this article co-authored by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

Written By: Heidi K. Curran, MBA