ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, almost 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the United States.

The CDC notes that premature births frequently come with health problems such as jaundice and breathing issues, which often lead to lengthier hospital stays.

However, researchers may have found a way to help ease some of the negative issues caused by premature birth.

A new study suggests that singing lullabies to premature children staying in the neonatal intensive care unit may have beneficial effects on the baby’s sleeping, eating and heart rate.

The study, conducted at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine – part of the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York – also found that babies benefited from listening to a mother’s heartbeat or the sounds of fluid in the womb.

“Neurologic function can be enhanced with music … [and] vital signs can be enhanced through interactive sounds and music therapy,” Joanne Loewy, head of the Louis Armstrong Center, was quoted as saying by Reuters Health.

She added, “We are learning from the literature and studies like this that premature infants do not necessarily grow best tucked away in an incubator.”

A reported 272 premature babies in 11 NICUs were observed during the study. Parents were asked to sing to the children at designated times over the course of two weeks, for 10 minutes. Therapists also played sounds thought to be heard in the womb for the same duration of time during the study.

Reuters Health learned that the heart rates of babies participating in the study dropped one or two beats per minute after hearing the soothing sounds.

“The singing is extremely important because it represents familiarity – the baby heard the mother and father’s voice as early as 16 weeks,” Loewy additionally noted. “[P]lus you have melody and rhythm in song.”

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