Many premature babies enter the world with a mountain of challenges in front of them. Even after they overcome any life-threatening issues, they face ongoing, and typically unpleasant, medical procedures, long hospital stays and increased chances of chronic health issues throughout their lives.
To help address one of their biggest problems - learning how to suck and feed - Florida State University has announced the availability of the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) device to hospitals around the world.
The innovative PAL device, which uses musical lullabies to help infants quickly learn the muscle movements needed to suck, and ultimately feed, is being sold through a partnership with Powers Device Technologies Inc. Research studies have shown that PAL can reduce the length of a premature infant's hospital stay by an average of five days.
"Unlike full-term infants, very premature babies come into the world lacking the neurologic ability to coordinate a suck/swallow/breathe response for oral feeding," said Jayne Standley, Florida State's Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Music Therapy and inventor of the PAL. "The longer it takes them to learn this essential skill, the further behind in the growth process they fall. PAL uses musical lullaby reinforcement to speed this process up, helping them feed sooner and leave the hospital sooner."
PAL uses a specially wired pacifier and speaker to provide musical reinforcement every time a baby sucks on it correctly. The musical lullabies are gentle and pleasant to the baby, making them want to continue the sucking motion so they can hear more of the lullaby.
Clinical studies conducted by Standley at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH), University of Georgia Hospital in Athens, University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill and Women's and Children's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., have shown that infants will increase their sucking rates up to 2.5 times more than infants not exposed to the musical reinforcement.
"It's amazing to watch how much quicker our babies are able to learn the sucking motion after they have used PAL," said Terry Stevens, a neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) nurse at TMH. "They are ready to eat sooner, they go home from the hospital earlier, they tolerate their feedings better; it's just a phenomenal improvement overall."
In addition to helping premature babies learn to feed quicker, PAL also provides parents with a welcome chance to connect with their babies during this crucial stage of the development process.