Before you rocked on your first guitar, jammed with your high school garage band, or sang your first tune, you had a passion for music. Whether you heard “Rockabye Baby”, “Esta Niña Linda,” or “Fais Dodo Colas, Mon Petit Frère”, your tiny ears enjoyed each sweet lullaby sung to you.
What special characteristics make lullabies special? Do lullabies scientifically soothe a stressed soul?
Most moms would agree that Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” does not qualify as a true lullaby. Lullabies typically have a calming effect, simple rhythms, appropriate lyrics, and repetitive melodies, no matter the country of origin. You might want to sing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” to your little bambino, but studies have shown that infants prefer lullabies to grown-up musical fare. Even lullabies with questionable lyrics manage to soothe young babies. For example, “Rockabye Baby”‘s mesmerizing melody lulls any baby to sleep – even as mom chants, “down will come baby, cradle and all!”
Do lullabies influence babies physically, emotionally, or even musically? Scientific studies indicate that lullabies, when coupled with rocking and physical touch, increase vitality in babies. One study at Brigham Young University indicated that lullabies helped preemies gain weight quicker while another study in 2005 suggests that the simple act of bouncing a baby to a song increases the infant’s rhythmic perception. Overall, music positively affects infants (especially premature infants), physiologically by soothing them, decreasing high heart rates, and providing comfort.
Lullabies not only decrease stress in babies, but the act of singing lullabies can reduce the amount of stress in the singer. Studies have shown that the calming nature of lullabies has an equally calming effect on mothers. Lullabies allow mothers and babies to seal their strong biological connection while allowing mothers to express their own emotions, hopes, and fears through the lyrics of a simple song. Lullabies reveal a number of hidden thoughts and give mothers an opportunity to impress cultural and social awareness on her child. Across cultures, lullabies link mother (or grandmother or father) and child to the community and to each other.
Ten Top Tips for Lullaby Bliss
You don’t need to be Pavarotti, Susan Boyle, or Josh Groban to sing to your child. What are some simple ways to add music to your baby’s life?
1. Sing a lullaby to your child as part of a night time or naptime ritual.
Not only does singing a lullaby soothe your child, but the lullaby lets the child know that sleep time has begun. Discover favorite English language lullabies at Parent Dish, which features a list of 15 favorite lullabies, lyrics, and music examples.
2. Always sing in a slow and soothing voice.
You should save loud and energetic songs for playtime or recess. When you want your child to nap, a soothing and slow voice will help lull your baby to sleep. You might find yourself nodding off, too!
3. Incorporate favorite lullabies from your own childhood.
Share a part of your history by passing down songs from your mother and grandmother. If you need reminding, The Lullaby Link has hundreds of favorite lullabies from around the world and includes lyrics and music examples.
4. Learn lullabies from other cultures and in different languages.
Did your grandmother sing in a different language? Help share your cultural history by singing to your baby in a different language or learn a new lullaby from a different culture. Language and music closely intertwine, no matter if you sing in English, Spanish, Japanese, or Hindi. You can discover international lullabies and rhymes at Mama Lisa’s World.
5. Add songs to everyday rituals, like cleaning up toys, eating lunch, or bath time.
Songs help solidify rituals and signal a new part of the day for babies and young children.
6. Sing with a smile.
Let go of your stresses of the day, relax your face, take a deep breath, and sing with a smile. An agitated parent cannot soothe a tired baby, so sing with a smile!
7. Rock or cradle baby in time as you sing.
Rocking baby in time helps baby understand the most basic concepts of rhythm while mimicking the motions he or she experienced in the womb.
8. Enjoy the time spent singing.
Holding your baby close at night and singing a lullaby closely bonds parent and child. This precious time will end before you can blink your eyes. Enjoy this special snuggle time. These cherished memories will make you smile when your “baby” becomes an exasperating teen!
9. Invite siblings, grandparents, and other caregivers to sing lullabies to the baby.
Does grandma, dad, or big sister want to bond closer with baby? Encourage them to have a turn at singing baby to bed. Does your partner come home late from work each night? Then let your partner put baby to bed each night and give yourself a break.
10. Add motions to favorite songs.
Work on baby’s motor skills by adding simple motions to your songs. Clapping, waving hands, and moving arms up and down are easy skills that older babies can mimic with a little bit of help.
Whether you work every day or stay at home, singing lullabies to your baby strengthens the bond between child and parent. Encourage music development and help lower stress by the simple act of singing.
We want to hear from you! Do you have a special song your mother sang to you? What other nighttime rituals help your child sleep? Do you have an original lullaby? Share lullabies and musical experiences with your baby in the comments below.