Clinical observations of live improvisational harp music in neonatal intensive care


  • Roxanne McLeod The Children's Hospital at Westmead
  • Kaye Spence The Children's Hospital at Westmead



The use of Music Therapy (MT) in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) has received growing attention through an increasing body of research.  MT research in NICUs have shown benefits in the use of both recorded and live music, a recent study has indicated that live music produces more beneficial outcomes in some domains, and is often perceived as more beneficial by parents. As part of the developmental program in a NICU, music therapy by a Registered Music Therapist was implemented for long-stay infants and their families. The live music therapy sessions using a Reverie Harp were simultaneously observed by a health professional who was a certified NIDCAP Professional. A series of infants were observed with music played to their individual responses. The behavioral observations and the responses to the music were consistent with supportive regulation by the infants. Music therapy specifically targeted at longer stay infants was shown to be calming and enabled the infants to regulate their behavior. A planned music therapy program for neonates and their parents in collaboration with an experienced nurse enables the identification of infants and their families who may benefit from the program.


Key Words


NICU, music therapy, live music, NIDCAP, Neonate

Author Biographies

Roxanne McLeod, The Children's Hospital at Westmead

Registered Music Therapist, Child Life & Music Therapy Department, Cancer Centre for Children, The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Kaye Spence, The Children's Hospital at Westmead

AM, RN, MN. Clinical Nurse Consultant – Neonatology, Grace Centre for Newborn Care, The Children's Hospital at Westmead.


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