One of the biggest health concerns for babies born prematurely is their poorly developed sucking instinct. To nurse properly, babies must perform a carefully coordinated suck-swallow-breathe reflex. Because they are not able to feed properly, the survival rate of preemies can become seriously compromised.


That's where a brilliant new invention by researchers at Florida State University comes in. They have developed a musical pacifier that plays a lullaby whenever a baby sucks on it correctly. Aside from having a soothing effect, the pacifier teaches the child to suck properly through positive reinforcement, reports


The device, called a Pacifier Activated Lullaby, or PAL, was developed by Dr. Jayne Standley, who specializes in studying the healing power of music.


"Unlike full-term infants, very premature babies come into the world lacking the neurologic ability to coordinate a suck/swallow/breathe response for oral feeding," said Standley. "The longer it takes them to learn this essential skill, the further behind in the growth process they fall. PAL uses musical lullaby reinforcement to speed this process up, helping them feed sooner and leave the hospital sooner."


So far trials of the device have been remarkably successful. PAL has been shown to drastically improve the feeding reflex in preemies (infants increased their sucking rates by up to 2.5 times), and it has also reduced the length of time infants must stay in the hospital by an average of five days. This is great news for the babies' health, but it could also help save money and resources for the hospital.


Apparently, the pacifier not only soothes babies, but their caregivers, too. Caregivers have reported decreased stress and improved behavioral control while using the device. And let's face it, hearing that lullaby in the background affirms for concerned caregivers that the baby is developing properly.


The device isn't just for preemies, either. Parents with children on pacifiers of all ages may find benefit to using one. We know that pacifiers soothe babies; add an automated, serene lullaby to the mix and putting your baby to sleep may have just gotten a whole lot easier.


Currently the pacifier appears pre-programmed to play a gentle version of "Rock-a-bye Baby," though there's no reason other songs couldn't be loaded in to suit your child's own eclectic tastes — or to give parents a little listening variety!


You can view a full video report showcasing the PAL here, or watch a segment of the report below:


Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

New musical pacifier plays lullaby while babies suck
One of the biggest health concerns for babies born prematurely is their poorly developed sucking instinct. To grow, abies must perform a carefully coordinated s