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Music therapy program for NICU newborns hits the right notes with local families


A unique therapy program for newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Grand River Hospital (GRH) is supporting families through the sound of music.

The newly established NICU music therapy program is only the third of its kind in Ontario helps both patients and parents.

According to the GRH Foundation, music therapy provides safe stimulation through modified live music like gentle humming, slow songs or lullabies, said to support infants self-soothing and promote comfort, stability, sleep, relaxation, and caregiver-infant bonding.

Tyler Reidy, a certified music therapist for the children’s medical program, is the one who performs the songs for the patients. He said a lot of the babies admitted at GRH’s NICU have respiratory distress or struggle with things like food intake or weight gain.

Music therapist Tyler Reidy sings to Rebecca McGinley and her baby Nora at Grand River Hospital in January 2023. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)“Sometimes I can support with what's called entrainment to help with feeding. So nutritive sucking, sometimes when we're premature we're not able to do rhythmic sucking, so providing that stimuli supports that,” Reidy said.

Rebecca McGinley’s baby Nora was born two months early. McGinley admitted it is an anxious time for the family as Nora lies in the NICU.

“It's also crazy having a newborn baby that right away you can't hold or right away you can't interact with like a normal newborn,” McGinley said.

McGinley said since they started music therapy, she’s noticed a difference.

“Lately, she started being more vocal, so she'll coo sometimes and make little noises, and we're like, ‘oh you're singing,’” she said.

Make You Feel My Love by Adele is one of McGinley’s favourite picks for Nora.

“We've just been working with it, and music is such a big part in our lives, so certain lyrics make me think of her,” McGinley said.

Harmonies for the heart are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

“[It] can really make an impact to neurodevelopment as well for the babies' heart rate and respiratory rate regulation, temperature stability when they're doing skin to skin with a family member, for example during music therapy,” Emily Fenske, with the children’s program said.

Creating meaningful musical experiences with some of the tiniest patients appears to show that music may truly be the best medicine. Top Stories

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