Music Therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Bonding Support with the Non-Birthing Parent

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McCann, Whitney E.
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) estimate that approximately 10% of infants in the United States are born prematurely. The majority of premature births occur spontaneously. This evokes a sense of unpreparedness and is one of the leading causes of stress in parents with infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU; Ionio et al., 2016). Parental stress has been linked to impeded bonding (Bieleninik et al., 2021; Ionio et al., 2016), as has physical separation between the parents and their infant (Ionio et all, 2016; Loewy, 2011), which is an inherent part of the NICU experience. Impeded bonding has been linked to delays in the child’s emotional and social development among other areas (Loewy, 2011; Ramchandani et al., 2013). Supporting parent-infant bonding is an important part of music therapy in the NICU. The purpose of this study was to explore how writing an original song of kin (Loewy, 2015) could support the bonding between the non-birthing parent (e.g., the biological father) and their infant in the NICU. One participant completed the study. He scored well within normal limits on the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire (Brockington et al., 2006). While he did not report an increased sense of bonding with his infant following the intervention, he did express that the songwriting process aided him in connecting with his happiness and excitement about infant’s birth for only the second time since infant was born. He also reported a motivation to write additional songs for his infant. This author recommends further research on the use of songwriting and supporting bonding with non-birthing parents, especially where there may be significant impediments to bonding.