Music Therapy for Infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Even though pharmacological therapy is a standard treatment for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome, opioids can cause long term developmental delays.  Music therapists working in the neonatal intensive care unit have been studying various interventions to assess the effectiveness of music therapy on the withdrawal symptoms in infant with NAS.  A clinical quality improvement pilot study was recently conducted at Norton Healthcare in Louisville, KY in which the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) was used 3-4 times a week with infants diagnosed with NAS that scored a Finnegan score of 8 or higher while the control group received standard care using a standard pacifier.  Results indicated a significant decrease in Finnegan scores for infants receiving the PAL treatment.  This study is currently being expanded into a multi-site study and is the first experimental study of its kind to be published.  Please check out this ground breaking study by using the reference below.

Detmer M. R., Deloach D., Forbes K. D., & Gossom R. (2017).  The effect of NICU music therapy on the symptoms of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome.  Imagine5(1), 54-58.


Welcome to the Neonatal Beat in partnership with the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy and Florida State University. If you are a clinician working in a neonatal intensive care unit, we are pleased to invite you to this online community.  Within this blog, board-certified music therapists (MT-BC) who have extensive experience working in the NICU will discuss evidence-based music therapy interventions and innovative research with neonatal clinicians.  Our purpose is to improve the communication and knowledge of NICU music therapy services for clinical staff as well as to increase confidence and awareness for neonatologists and practitioners when ordering services for their patients.  Please explore all of the features of this blog and feel free to post any questions or comments.

Below is a video of Dr. Steven B. Morse, Medical Director and neonatologist at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, who has had over 20 years of experience working with NICU music therapists.  In this video, Dr. Morse shares his experiences as well as suggestions for future NICU music therapy research.  Please feel free to comment or ask any questions.  Thank you and welcome!!!