WCH neonatal nurseries benefit from harp performances

Musician Ilona Weir treats tiny babies, their doting parents, and staff in the neonatal nurseries to harp performances every week.

Ilona’s performances are proudly funded through the WCH Foundation’s Arts in Health program. Arts in Health worked with the neonatal growth and development team at the Hospital to establish the Music for Wellness sessions.

While the magical music is a joy to listen to, research shows the tunes also have positive health impacts on pre-term babies.

“The research shows the most appropriate tunes for babies are very simple, repetitive, calm tunes,” Ilona, who has been playing the harp for 20 years, said.

“If you played fast music it would be overwhelming, the music is designed to keep them very calm.”

Ilona playing the harp in neonatal nurseries.

Ilona Weir playing the harp in the neonatal nurseries at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

The benefits for babies include:

  • Soothes, relaxes and aids in stress relief.
  • Stabilises babies’ heart rate and breathing patterns, to improve weight gain and sleep quality.
  • Promotes babies’ brain structure, which could help them learn to talk.
  • Activates part of the baby’s brain involved in cognitive processing and emotions.

In November 2020, new parents Mandy Lewis and Stuart Sampson, welcomed twin daughters Sage and Kora born at 28 weeks. The neonatal nurseries cared for the twins and whilst there they heard Ilona play. They told their story to The Advertiser ahead of World Prematurity Day.

“It was really special to share that with the babies,” Mandy told The Advertiser.

“They were a little bit cranky to begin with, but as she (Ilona) started playing they went to sleep, so I think the beautiful music really soothed them, really relaxed them.”

Babies and their parents in the neonatal nurseries listening to the harp.

Harpist Ilona Weir plays lullabies for Mandy Lewis and Stuart Sampson and their daughters Sage and Kora at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy: Naomi Jellicoe / Newspix.

Positive feedback

Ilona said the harp tunes don’t just create a soothing environment for families but are also beneficial for staff.

“It’s also for the staff so I mix it up by playing some slowed down pop tunes, tunes that people are familiar with,” Ilona said.

“I’ve received positive feedback from families and staff. They come up and say to me ‘thank you’, ‘the music is beautiful’, and ‘it’s very calming’. I can really see the benefits of harp music in the neonatal nurseries.”

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