Music therapy helps family during 100-day hospital stay

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story referred to Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital incorrectly. It has been corrected. (June 26, 2024)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Long hospital stays can be emotionally challenging for the patient and the family. A Kentucky hospital is working to give the family a sense of comfort through music therapy. 


What You Need To Know

  • Norton Healthcare offers music therapy to families who have children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Carter Richardson was born at 28 weeks and spent his first 100 days in the NICU. His mother says Carter loves the music therapy 
  • Norton Healthcare’s New Baby: Music and Bonding classes are held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and are open to infants up to one-year-old 


The Marshall Women’s Health and Education Center at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Louisville is filled with music and young children moving to the beat. Two-year-old Carter Richardson is familiar with the sound. 

“He loves music, he responds best to music. We would literally sing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ to him just to get him to eat in the NICU,” Megan Richardson, Carter’s mom, says. 

Megan gave birth to Carter at 28 weeks; he weighed 2 pounds 12 ounces. He spent his first 100 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

“I didn’t know how to touch him. We didn’t want to overstimulate him. His nerves were still developing. So Alex came in and helped us, like, touch you in different places, use music to help that. So and it actually helped his heart rate go down. He didn’t have any breathing spells where he would hold his breath,” Megan said. 

Alex Ruffner is a music therapist at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She says music can comfort families when their baby is in the NICU. 

“Having a music therapist there can really promote something that is normal in a very unnatural environment for parents, singing to a baby is something that pretty much all parents do instinctually,” Ruffner said. 

The music therapy group is an opportunity for parents and their babies to get out of the house, bond and connect with others. 

“We just want to provide a really comfortable place for families to interact with each other and for the babies to also learn something new through music,” explained Ruffner.

Carter was diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Megan says they attend the classes in addition to speech therapy. 

“It’s a great resource and a friend to have. He loves it so much, he’s probably going to become a musician or something,” Megan said. 

Norton Healthcare has 10 music therapists which work with patients. According to Norton, the hospital is the only one in the city with a NICU music therapist. 

Norton Healthcare’s New Baby: Music and Bonding classes are held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and are open to infants up to one-year-old.

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