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Special lullabies help NICU infants heal at UW Medical Center

Parents are creating personalized lullabies to comfort newborns at the University of Washington Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit.

SEATTLE — A special program at the University of Washington Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is helping heal premature babies while comforting parents. A musician is helping new parents write their own personalized lullabies to sing to their newborns.

Little Kassie Turner spent the first 53 days of her life in the NICU at UW. Complications with the pregnancy threatened both Kassie and her mother’s life. She was born at 28 weeks and barely weighed 2 pounds.

"I didn't know if I was going to have a choice to make. If it was my wife or my daughter," said Shannon Turner, Kassie’s father 

Shannon Turner and his wife Danielle weren't allowed to hold Kassie until a week after she was born.

"The journey has just been really hard," said Shannon Turner.

Neurologic Music Therapist Gayle Cloud is helping the family soften their journey. She works with new parents to craft special lullabies for their fragile babies.

Also see | Wireless sensors for NICU babies let parents hug skin-to-skin

The Turners wrote their lullaby lyrics as a sort of prayer to will their daughter to grow stronger.

"Creating this lullaby and speaking it into her life has helped me know that one day we'll go home,” said Danielle Turner. “She'll play and be stronger, and live the life that she's meant to live.”

"It brings a serenity over you," Shannon Turner said. "It takes you away from everything that's going right now. It's just me and her."

Studies show music helps heal premature babies in stressful situations.

"I can look at the monitors and see it working," said Cloud. "Heart rates will begin to lower. I have seen oxygen saturation levels improve with music because babies are calmer. It can help with respiratory rates."

The Turners hope Kassie will sing the lullaby to her children one day. The gift, just like her life, is so deeply cherished.

"We are so blessed," said Shannon Turner. "She is so precious."

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