A study has found a way to help premature babies breathe a little easier… Just have mom sing to them!

A new analysis of studies in the journal Pediatrics found that music therapy helps stabilize preemie babies' breathing rates while they’re in the neonatal intensive care unit. It also helps the babies sleep and encourages “quiet alert” time, in which babies look at objects, and respond to sounds and motion.

The music therapy studies involved mothers singing to their babies… and that's important, because full-term infants can recognize their mother's voice at birth. So having moms sing to their premature babies helps them form a connection they may miss out on, since they finish gestation outside their mother’s womb. And the health benefits go both ways… parents who sing to their infants in the neonatal ICU also lowered their own stress levels.

So what songs should parents sing? The researchers recommend any song that has meaning for parents. It doesn't have to be a traditional lullaby. Anything sung in a lullaby style that’s gentle, quiet, and “lulling,” will work. And even if your baby isn't a preemie, singing a simple lullaby at bedtime, while holding your baby over your heart, skin to skin, will help calm them down and ready them for sleep.