Playing live music helps sooth premature babies being cared for in neonatal units, researchers have found.
Premature babies benefitted from live music the most
An Israeli study, presented to the British Psychological Society conference in Leeds, found live music was more effective than recorded.
Babies slept more deeply and had a reduced heart rate after hearing the female voice and harp piece live.
The researchers say neonatal units should use live music, such as mothers singing lullabies, to help babies.
The researchers, from the Meir Hospital in Kfar-Saba, Israel, compared the effects of 30 minutes-worth of no music, recorded music and live music on 15 premature babies.
The babies were then monitored for 30 minutes.
It was found that babies slept significantly more deeply and had a reduced heart rate after hearing the live music.
Dr Shmuel Arnon, who led the research, told BBC News Online: "It could be that the live music is different to recorded music in its timbre, its echo, and other variables that could influence the baby."
"I think music should be played in neonatal intensive care units. Babies would benefit from around half an hour's music a day."
Dr Arnon suggested mothers could be encouraged to sing lullabies to their babies, if they were being cared for in such units, which tend to be dominated by the noise of the machines monitoring the infants.
He added: "This is beneficial to premature babies. Other research has shown that if you reduce their heart-rate and they sleep better, then they can go home earlier than other babies."
He said the team were looking at the best volume to play music at. In this study, music was played at between 55 and 75 decibels - a mother's lullaby would be sung at about 50, and a normal speaking voice registers at around 30.
The team is now planning further research looking at a larger group of babies, and comparing different types of music.