Given the recent expansion of research in the area of music therapy (MT) for preterm infants, there is a need for an up-to-date meta-analysis of rigorously designed studies that focus exclusively on MT.


To systematically review and meta-analyze the effect of MT on preterm infants and their parents during NICU hospitalization and after discharge from the hospital.


PubMed/Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, CINAHL, ERIC, Web of Science, RILM.


Only parallel or crossover randomized controlled trials of MT versus standard care, comparison therapy, or placebo were included.


Independent extraction by 2 reviewers, including risk of bias indicators.


From 1803 relevant records, 16 met inclusion criteria, of which 14 contained appropriate data for meta-analysis involving 964 infant participants and 266 parent participants. Overall, random-effects meta-analyses suggested significant large effects favoring MT for infant respiratory rate (mean difference, –3.91/min, 95% confidence interval, −7.8 to −0.03) and maternal anxiety (standardized mean difference, –1.82, 95% confidence interval, −2.42 to −1.22). There was not enough evidence to confirm or refute any effects of MT on other physiologic and behavioral outcomes or on short-term infant and service-level outcomes. There was considerable heterogeneity between studies for the majority of outcomes.


This review is limited by a lack of studies assessing long-term outcomes.


There is sufficient evidence to confirm a large, favorable effect of MT on infant respiratory rate and maternal anxiety. More rigorous research on short-term and long-term infant and parent outcomes is required.

You do not currently have access to this content.