Article of the Month
Provenzi, L., Broso, S., & Montirosso, R. (2018). Do mothers sound good? A systematic review of the effects of maternal voice exposure on preterm infants' development. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 88, 42-50.
The authors present a thorough systematic review of the literature on the effects of maternal voice on preterm infant development. They preface there discoveries with an acknowledgement that the NICU, although brilliant in providing highly medicalized and technological care, in no way, shape or form, is a substitute for the maternal womb.
Studies that were included in the review were comprised of both recorded and live maternal voice. Outcome measures looked at the effect of maternal voice on heart rate and oxygen saturation; brain activation in response to maternal voice (using NIRS); incidence of feeding intolerance and time to full enteral feedings; infant behavioral and stress cues; cognitive and language development; and pain reactivity.
Despite AAP recommendations for sound levels (< 50 decibels) few studies reported information about the sound levels associated with maternal voice. One study (Panagiotidis & Lahav 2010) did report sound levels of maternal recorded voice (58.1 dB) and maternal recorded voice with biologic sounds (58.6) - both of which did not exceed the recommended safe leve of 60 dBs in the incubator (Graven & Browne 2008).
As a summary of their findings the authors suggest specific guidelines for future research but summarize by stating that "...maternal voice appears to be a promising intervention to facilitate intimacy and togetherness between mothers and infants in the NICU, both as complement and substitute of other touch-based interventions."