New pacifier 'PAL' allows babies to hear parents sing lullaby

As a parent, there are few things as difficult as feeling helpless when your child is in need, but that's often the reality for parents whose babies are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. However, a musical device gives parents an important role in their baby's medical care.

Having to go home and leave their triplets in the NICU was a helpless feeling for Jana Gallus and Gregor Martynus. Then, the couple learned of a new way to help their babies even when they couldn't be at the hospital. 

“It was hard to leave them there,” Martynus said. “Yeah, it is really hard.”

Researchers at UCLA Matel Children's Hospital are studying a device called a ‘Pacifier Activated Lullaby,’ or ‘PAL.’ It plays a lullaby written and sung by the baby's parents when the baby successfully sucks on the pacifier. 
    
“They love it and they want to hear their parent’s voices,” registered nurse Shelly Frisco said. 

This is critically important for premies born before 34 weeks when they often struggle to feed because they haven't developed the refluxes to suck breathe and swallow.

“Sometimes that's the final thing that needs to happen before they are discharged is their ability to feed orally,” Frisco said. 

70 percent of the premies improve their proficiency on the pacifier when the PAL device was used—a skill that's going to be important for feeding.

The hope is to shorten hospital stays while also empowering parents and easing their emotional distress while their babies are in intensive care. 

“It’s a role to play when no one else can fill that void, an it’s critical, and it’s powerful,” hospital employee Jenna Bollard said.

With the help, all three triplets fed better, got stronger, and were able to go home together at 52 days old. Now, they're healthy babies growing by the day 

Their parents say music continues to influence their development just as it has since their first days in the world. 

“All healthy and nothing more we could wish for,” said Gallus.

With positive results for both babies and parents, experts are hoping that more hospitals will adopt the technology to help shorten stays in the NICU.