Playing Mozart’s Lullaby may help reduce the pain that newborns feel when undergoing a heel prick blood test, a new study suggests.
The findings suggest recorded music may be an effective method of pain relief in newborn babies undergoing minor procedures.
Researchers measured the pain levels of 100 babies who had the test as part of routine screening for conditions such as jaundice and phenylketonuria (PKU) in New York City between April 2019 and February 2020.
On average, the babies were two days old and born at 39 weeks.
As part of standard care, all babies were given 0.5 millilitres of sugar solution two minutes before the heel prick was performed.
The test involves a healthcare professional pricking the child’s heel and collecting drops of blood.
An investigator wearing noise-cancelling headphones assessed the babies’ pain levels before, during, and after the heel prick.
The pain levels were determined according to the infants’ facial expressions, degree of crying, breathing patterns, limb movements, and levels of alertness.
In the study, 54 of the 100 babies had listened to an instrumental of Mozart’s Lullaby for 20 minutes prior to and during the heel prick and for five minutes afterwards, while the others did not.
The procedure was consistently performed in a quiet, dimly lit room at an ambient temperature and the babies were not provided with dummies or physical comfort.
According to the findings, similar pain levels were observed in both groups of children before the heel prick, with pain scores for both groups at zero, out of a maximum possible score of seven.
However, the average pain score of babies who listened to the lullaby was significantly lower during and immediately after the heel prick, compared to those who did not listen to music.
The pain score for babies who listened to the lullaby was four during the test, zero at one minute after the procedure, and zero at two minutes after the heel prick.
In the group that did not listen to the lullaby, the pain scores were seven, 5.5 and two at the same time points, Saminathan Anbalagan at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Centre in New York, and colleagues found.
There was no difference in average pain scores of infants in both groups three minutes after the procedure, the study published in Paediatric Research found.
According to the scientists, future research could investigate whether recordings of parental voices can also reduce pain in newborns during minor procedures, as well as exploring the influence of physical comfort from caregivers, in addition to music, on pain levels.
The study authors write: “Recorded music, in addition to sucrose, is efficacious in reducing pain, encouraging its use in term neonates.”
They conclude: Music intervention is an easy, reproducible, and inexpensive tool for pain relief from minor procedures in healthy, term newborns.
“The study results can be applied to term newborn nurseries with limited resources in the US and potentially worldwide.”