Accompanied by a symphony of beeping medical machines, Board Certified Music Therapist Taylor Brown, MT-BC, NICU MT, serenades babies in Le Bonheur’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Using her guitar, Brown soothes crying NICU resident 6-month-old Journee Kinkle — her tears stopping as she is mesmerized by the soft strumming and singing.
Board Certified Music Therapist Brown works with babies like Kinkle, who are 32-weeks gestation and older — neonates younger than 32-weeks gestation require a dark and quiet room.
“Babies born prematurely have difficulty processing stimulation,” said Brown, “so I use music to help them acclimate to their new world.”
Thanks to the generous support of donors — including the Le Bonheur Club — Brown is able to help babies through Multimodal Stimulation, a neurologic enhancement process focusing on auditory, tactile, and vestibular stimulation. This process introduces and familiarizes babies with new sounds, touch, and movements.
Brown is also able to utilize donor-funded cd players, sound machines, books, guitars and other instruments to help babies meet developmental milestones and adapt to new stimulation.
“I notice a difference when Taylor spends time with my baby,” said Breanna Bland, mother of patient Na’Stylja Thompson. “She is more alert and active.”
With different needs across the board, Brown addresses each individual patient based on their gestational age and current medical status.
“When I work with NICU babies, I watch for signs of overstimulation,” said Brown. “We want to avoid any agitation with our tiniest patients. Eye contact, relaxed behavior, or stable vitals are all good signs that the patient is tolerating stimuli.”
Brown works alongside Certified Child Life Specialist Anne Elizabeth Hattier, CCLS, one of 21
at Le Bonheur. Hattier helps families adjust to having a baby in the NICU and works to promote positive coping.
As a Level IV NICU, Le Bonheur treats the most critical neonate cases, including babies weighing less than a pound. Hattier demonstrates how to safely interact with the babies so parents feel comfortable participating in their child’s care.
“I don’t just work with patients, I also help parents learn how to engage and bond with their baby in an unfamiliar environment,” said Hattier. “I monitor patients’ medical status in order to appropriately support their developmental growth, as well as celebrate medical milestones met by patients.”
With each patient and family having varying needs, Hattier seeks to identify specific resources to support individual needs.
In many cases, families face barriers to being able to visit their baby in the NICU as often as they would like— due to a transportation issue, a challenging work schedule, or they might have another child at home — so Hattier offers secure video chat opportunities for parents to interact with their baby or provide bedside education.
I’ve spoken with child life specialists at other hospitals and I have found that what Child Life offers at Le Bonheur is very special. We are fortunate to have a multitude of resources and a close working relationship with the NICU medical care team.
Hattier also works in conjunction with the medical care team to answer parents’ questions about procedures, support their involvement in their child’s treatment plan, and help educate them in advance of surgeries — including using a teaching doll to increase coping procedures and care he would
“Anne Elizabeth is wonderful,” Bain exclaimed. “When she knew I was afraid of the tracheostomy
surgery and the risks of anesthesia, she helped me get over being scared. She came in with a medical teaching doll and showed me what the trach and G-tube looked like to help me feel less anxious.”
While there are many happy stories and outcomes in the Le Bonheur NICU, when the need arises, Brown and Hattier also work with parents to provide bereavement support at end of life. From bereavement gowns, to hand and foot molds, embossing, and locks of hair, as well as special heartbeat recordings made by Brown, they ensure parents are able to honor their baby and celebrate their memory, while supporting family grief.
Le Bonheur supporters help make many Child Life resources possible, making a difference in the
lives of countless babies and their families.
“I’ve spoken with child life specialists at other hospitals and I have found that what Child Life
offers at Le Bonheur is very special,” said Hattier. “We are fortunate to have a multitude of resources and a close working relationship with the NICU medical care team.”
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