NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Half a million premature babies are born in the U.S. every year, and many spend their first few months of life in intensive care. That can mean a bigger risk of infections and a bigger hospital bill, but one doctor found an unusual solution.

Rachel Shrier has emotional recording sessions singing lullabies for her son, who was born 16 weeks early.

He weighed one pound eight ounces, she said.

The lullabies could train him to eat. Dr. Nathalie Maitre, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, that's the problem with preemies.

They don t know how to suck to get food, to swallow that food, and to breathe while they re swallowing it, she said.

Moms voices can be the motivation needed. Rachel s songs are plugged into a special pacifier.

If the baby is sucking at the right rhythm and strength, it plays mom s voice singing, Dr. Maitre said.

However, if John doesn t do it right, the singing stops.

He can correlate the sucking with hearing my voice, Shrier said.

A new study shows premature babies who received the therapy 15 minutes a day for five consecutive days ate faster and went home up to 14 days sooner than other preemies.

They grow better and they re at much less risk of infection, Dr. Maitre said.

Rachel hopes it will help her baby.

The pacifier could save the healthcare system up to tens of thousands of dollars for every premature baby it helps.

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