Implementing music therapy in a Norwegian neonatal intensive care unit
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Implementing music therapy in a Norwegian neonatal intensive care unit

Catharina Janner Music Therapist, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway
Tora Söderström Gaden PhD student, NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS, Bergen, Norway
Britt Nakstad Professor of Paediatrics, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway
Anne Lee Solevåg Physician, Department of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway

Why you should read this article:
  • To improve your knowledge of what neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) music therapy entails

  • To understand the potential benefits of NICU music therapy and how it can support family-centred care

  • To recognise the challenges in implementing music therapy in the NICU and identify how these could be addressed

Background Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) music therapy is an emerging discipline. There is a growing evidence base supporting its use, with an emphasis on the immediate and short-term positive effects on infants’ physiological responses and parents’ experiences.

Aim To explore the implementation of music therapy aligned with standards of neonatal care and as an integral part of the care routinely provided in a Norwegian NICU.

Method Parents of infants hospitalised in the NICU were offered music therapy sessions based on the First Sounds: Rhythm, Breath and Lullaby model. Before discharge from the NICU, parents were asked to complete an electronic survey about their experiences of music therapy. Nurses’ feedback and observations were also elicited and collected.

Findings A total of 16 parents completed the survey. Overall, their experiences of music therapy were positive, and they noted several benefits for themselves and their infant. In addition, nurses observed that parents’ interactions with their infant increased after participation in music therapy. However, nurses reported it was challenging to invite parents to participate in music therapy at a time of uncertainty, anxiety and grief. Nurses also found it challenging to disseminate information about music therapy to parents from other cultures. Furthermore, it was identified that most parents learned about the music therapy sessions from the music therapist, rather than from NICU medical or nursing staff, which indicates that music therapy was not fully integrated among the unit’s multidisciplinary team.

Conclusion Music therapy can reinforce family-centred care and promote parent-infant bonding, but additional efforts are required to integrate it into the care routinely provided by the NICU multidisciplinary team.

Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2021.e1331

Peer review

This article has been subject to open peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Janner C, Gaden TS, Nakstad B et al (2021) Implementing music therapy in a Norwegian neonatal intensive care unit. Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2021.e1331

Acknowledgements The project was conducted in collaboration with the Norwegian Association for Parents of Preterm Infants (Prematurforeningen) and funded by the Norwegian Dam Foundation (Stiftelsen Dam). The authors wish to thank the participating infants, parents and staff, as well as Aud Inger Hvideberg, head of the project steering group, for their invaluable support

Published online: 15 February 2021

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