Meeting the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Virtual Developmental Music Therapy Class for Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Brianna Negrete, MM, MT-BC, NICU MT


Pediatr Nurs. 2020;46(4):198-201, 206. 

In This Article

The Developmental Music Therapy Class

Prior to COVID-19, developmental music therapy classes for infants of 30 minutes in length were regularly offered in-person in our NICU. The "Music for Development" class was taught to parents by the music therapist as part of the Family Integrated Care (FICare) parent education curriculum (Franck et al., 2019). Parents who attended the class were invited to participate in the in-person developmental music therapy class. Classes were held in a central area in the unit where most of the infants were located. Parents and their infants, who were 4 months corrected gestational age or older, were invited and encouraged to participate. Infants were held by their parents, seated in a circle.

The music therapist facilitated the class that included songs encouraging socialization. Socialization activities were especially emphasized because this was often the first time the infants had seen other babies. Instrument play was done with shakers, and songs were sung by the music therapist and parents together. The songs also taught baby sign language (e.g., more, all done, mama). Story books were also read to the infants, and parents were reminded of the importance of reading to their children. Movement activities were demonstrated and practiced so parents could do them with their babies at other times.

Before each song, the music therapist would educate the parents on how to participate in the song with their child, providing hand-over-hand support, pointing to the different body parts the song was cuing, explaining how the song supported their infant's development, and demonstrating how the song could be used when not in a group setting. The music therapist also provided cues on how to adapt the activities based on the needs of the infant. For example, if the infant was lying on their back and unable to sit up, the music therapist would encourage the parent to move the infant's legs in a bicycle kick motion for the "Wheels on the Bus" song, instead of moving their hands.

Most importantly, this class allowed parents to just be parents; the music therapist aimed to create an ambiance of an ordinary playgroup in the community, avoiding direct discussion about the hospital or medical care. Parents bonded with their children using music, but also built relationships with other parents using music. Parents were able to meet other parents and make connections that they typically would not have made because they rarely left their child's room.