Science and Innovation

AdventHealth Research Institute study examines emotional impact of mothers’ recorded voices played to NICU babies

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"When I sing to her, she calms down, and I think a lot of that has to do with her recognizing my voice from singing.”

Dr. Raena Baptiste-Boles has three children, all of whom spent time in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Her most recent child, Riley, was in the Level III NICU at AdventHealth for Children in Orlando for three months last year.

Baptiste-Boles is participating in research that examines the effect of mother-child voice connections during the early stages of a child’s life.

Separation from a child, especially a newborn, is traumatic for parents. A research study sponsored by Dräger, manufacturers of medical and safety technology products, and conducted by AdventHealth Research Institute seeks to discover how mothers can better cope with this separation. The research is led by Dr. Narendra Dereddy, medical director of neonatology at AdventHealth for Children.

“We recognize that mothers feel disconnected from their babies when they are in the NICU, and we are seeking ways to address that very real emotion,” said Dereddy.

Mothers participating in the study were asked to record their own voices, speaking or singing, for use on nearly 100 specialized beds in the NICU. The recordings were played several times each day for babies staying in NICU with each infant hearing the voices of their mothers.

But here’s the twist – the voices were not only there to soothe the babies. Instead, researchers hope to discover how the moms react knowing that their child is hearing their voice even when they are not present in the room.

Baptiste-Boles, a licensed clinical psychologist in Orlando, said she volunteered for the study because of her knowledge of attachment theory, which focuses on the developmental bonds between people, including parents and children. Baptiste-Boles recognizes positive results from her involvement in the study.

“It made me feel attached to her,” Baptiste-Boles said. “It made me bond with her a little bit better. My hope was that she would recognize it [my voice] when she came out of the NICU, and she did. When I sing to her, she calms down, and I think a lot of that has to do with her recognizing my voice from singing.”

U.S. News & World Report recently recognized AdventHealth for Children as a Best Children’s Hospital for 2022-23 and among the best in Florida for neonatology.

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