Our first-ever international blog! Kaisamari shares her experiences as a music therapist in Finland working with premature infants and their parents. Find out more about family-centered care on neonatal wards in Finland and how Kaisamari shapes individual therapy sessions, engages parents and why music is so important for both of them.

Family-centered care and music therapy

I am a music therapist from Helsinki, Finland, and I work with families on a neonatal ward in Jorvi Hospital, Espoo. On the ward we have family-centered care, which means that parents are actively taking part in the care of their infants as much as possible. My work is family-oriented and the starting point in every meeting is the needs of the family.

On a weekly basis we have singing moments, where we sing lullabies or other songs with simple melodies and peaceful rhythms, while the infant is in skin-to-skin contact with the parent. With older preterms I also use instruments, like traditional Finnish kantele to accompany the songs, and lyre for creating a calm sound environment together with vocal improvisation, in case the parent feels like resting with their infant instead of actively participating.

My empowerment message

«Sing – speak – hum!
to your child, to your precious one.
Make your voice heard,
it connects you,
it protects the little one.»

How I work with parents and infants

The core of my work is to support the wellbeing of both infants and parents. I offer moments of relaxation and empowerment during the hospitalization. And I encourage parents to use their voices.

Often after premature birth, due to the medical needs and physical separation, parent’s only way to be in contact with their infant is to use their own voice. By doing this, a parent can build a connection, experience closeness and be active.

Of course, let’s not forget how important speech and singing are for the developing brain! Singing can also be an effective way to calm the infant down, transmit emotions, and create intimate early interaction moments.

It is good to remember, that not everyone feels comfortable with singing and in that case I suggest reading your favourite stories, poems and nursery rhymes aloud, and find your own way of using your voice so you can relax and enjoy those interactive moments together.

Want to find out about family-centered care?

Family-centered care is described as a partnership approach to health care decision-making between the family and health care provider. Experts from the United States list the following general principles that characterize family-centered care in pediatric health care (Kuo et al. Matern Child Health J  2012):

  • Information Sharing – The exchange of information is open, objective, and unbiased

  • Respect and Honoring Differences – The working relationship is marked by respect for diversity, cultural and linguistic traditions, and care preferences

  • Partnership and Collaboration – Medically appropriate decisions that best fit the needs, strengths, values, and abilities of all involved are made together by involved parties, including families at the level they choose

  • Negotiation – The desired outcomes of medical care plans are flexible and not necessarily absolute.
  • Care in Context of Family and Community – Direct medical care and decision-making reflect the child within the context of his/her family, home, school, daily activities, and quality of life within the community.

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