When music therapist Katherine Deane plays her guitar and sings for babies in Royal Columbian Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, it’s not just for entertainment.
“We do have a lot of data on music therapy and how it’s supporting feeding outcomes and shortening length of stay,” said Deane, who has a four-year music therapy degree from Capilano University.
A grant from the charity “Music Heals” is funding Deane’s twice-a-week visits to the NICU in New Westminster, where she sings to babies like Kennedy McRae, who was born 12 weeks premature.
“When Katherine sings, she gets these little smiles on her face, and I don’t see those often,” said Kennedy’s mother, Amanda McRae.
“It’s really nice to actually watch the calm come over your child and the facial expressions and the little movements that they make.”
While Deane is specially trained to use her voice to calm tiny babies, her real passion is encouraging parents to sing to their children.
“Because I feel like there’s a lot of stigma in our culture for singing in front of people, even in front of our children sometimes,” Deane said. “But it can be a beautiful way for children to hear their mother’s voice and feel their parents’ connection to them.”
McRae said she felt uncomfortable singing at first.
“When I met Katherine, my first instinct was to run away because I thought, ‘Oh no. I’m going to have to sing with her and nobody wants to hear that!'” said McRae. “But she makes you feel like you can sing like an angel.”
The funding from “Music Heals” runs out in December, but Deane hopes it’s extended so she can keep visiting the preemies at Royal Columbian.
Baby Kennedy should be going home soon. But as long as she’s in hospital, McRae knows her daughter won’t only be hearing the sound of NICU monitors and machines.
“It makes me feel good knowing she’s getting some sort of lullaby sung to her.”