The Effect of Maternal Presence on Premature Infant Response to Recorded Music


  • Trish Dearn was supported by an Australia Postgraduate Association scholarship from The University of Melbourne.

  • Helen Shoemark is supported by a Career Development Award Grant from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Support Program.



To determine the effect of maternal presence on the physiological and behavioral status of the preterm infant when exposed to recorded music versus ambient sound.


Repeated-measures randomized controlled trial.


Special care nursery (SCN) in a tertiary perinatal center.


Clinically stable preterm infants (22) born at > 28 weeks gestation and enrolled at > 32 weeks gestation and their mothers.


Infants were exposed to lullaby music (6 minutes of ambient sound alternating with 2x 6 minutes recorded lullaby music) at a volume within the recommended sound level for the SCN. The mothers in the experimental group were present for the first 12 minutes (baseline and first music period) whereas the mothers in the control group were absent overall.


There was no discernible infant response to music and therefore no significant impact of maternal presence on infant's response to music over time. However during the mothers’ presence (first 12 minutes), the infants exhibited significantly higher oxygen saturation than during their absence p = .024) and less time spent in quiet sleep after their departure, though this was not significant.


Infants may have been unable to detect the music against the ambient soundscape. Regardless of exposure to music, the infants’ physiological and behavioral regulation were affected by the presence and departure of the mothers.