BACKGROUND: The aim of this study is (1) to observe the effect of the background music (BGM) in the incubator on heart rate variability (HRV) during the first few weeks of life in preterm infants in the neonatal intensive (NICU) and growing care units (GCU) and (2) to investigate the effect of environmental music on autonomic function in the infants.
METHODS: Thirty infants, including premature (26 3/7 – 38 4/7 weeks) and low-birth weight (LBW) (946–2,440 g) infants, admitted to the NICU or GCU were involved. The heart rate, low- (LF, 0.05–0.15 Hz) and high- (HF, 0.15–0.4 Hz) frequency HRV components, and LF/HF ratio were measured. The BGM, lullabies for a baby, was delivered through a speaker in the incubator, and the HRV components were compared among before, during, and after intervention with BGM.
RESULTS: The mean HR did not change among the experimental conditions. The LF and HF values decreased during the BGM condition, but not LF/HF, compared with the condition before BGM.
CONCLUSIONS: The present results showed that an auditory environment affected the autonomic function of infants with a range of BGM in the NICU/GCU. The present study also suggested that BGM, a non-invasive and non-pharmacological intervention, could be an evaluation tool for autonomic function in infants in NICU/GCU.