It’s a fact of life that getting babies to sleep can be challenging. This is especially so once they leave the dreamy newborn stage. Even in ancient times, parents used singing to calm their children. The earliest written records of lullabies are from Babylonia (dating back four thousand years). While lullabies may not be a new solution, they really do work to soothe your baby and prepare them for sleep.
Research shows lullabies work
According to music expert Dr. Ibrahim H. Baltagi, lullabies slow down your baby’s heart. This was discovered by a team of researchers from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. They studied 37 patients between 7 days to 4 years old and found that listening to 10 minutes of a lullaby, (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Hush Little Baby,” “Five Little Ducks,” “See Saw Marjorie Daw,” and “Hush a Bye Baby”) reduced the children’s heart rates. What’s more, it also lowered their pain levels.
Indeed there are many studies that support the power of lullabies. One study from the Université de Montréal discovered that singing soothes infants more effectively than speech. The researchers noted that while a children’s song was played the babies stayed calm for much longer than when they listened to talking.
Furthermore, results from a study conducted by Harvard Music Lab showed that babies relaxed when a lullaby was played to them. Even when the lullabies were in a foreign language and they’d never heard them before. This suggests that it is not just the familiarity of a song or a parent’s voice that has a soothing effect but the lullaby itself.
Lullabies have common features across cultures. They are melodic, lilting and slower in temp. These features assist in slowing down a baby’s heartbeat and lulling them off to sleep.
So now that you know that lullabies work, how can you use them to settle your little one?
Learn a special lullaby to sing to your baby
Perhaps you remember a lullaby or soft song from your childhood or culture that your mother or grandmother sang to you. My grandmother sang ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ to me whenever I had a sore stomach. It never failed to make me feel better and is a special memory for me to this day.
If you don’t remember or know any lullabies, here are a few of my favourites:
- All Through The Night
- Bye Baby Bunting
- Frère Jacques
- Hush Little Baby
- The Slumber Boat
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Join my online program of music activities for babies to learn these lullabies and more songs to sing to your little one!
Include lullabies in your baby’s sleep routine
When I was pregnant with my first child I would sing a sweet lullaby called The Slumber Boat to her in my womb every night. Once she was born, I would sing the same lullaby as I put her down. I won’t claim that it worked like magic every time but it certainly helped to calm her on many occasions.
Lullabies can help establish a sleep routine for your baby because they give your baby the cue that it is time to unwind. It is best if you start by singing one or two lullabies yourself. Studies have shown that a parents’ voice (especially a mothers’) is naturally the most engaging sound for a baby.
When your voice tires you might like to play some recorded lullaby music. I’ve just released an album of lullabies called Swing Baby to Sleep designed to be played while you rock or swing your little one (these motions are naturally comforting and encourage sleep).
For 50% off my album enter the code SWING50 when you buy here. Limited time only.
Make up your own lullaby
There is nothing like the love you feel for your baby. I made up my own lullaby Sweet Little Baby (which features on my album) to express the love I felt for my child. Every time I sang it to her and looked in her eyes, I know it helped to soothe her and strengthen our connection. Singing encourages bonding as it releases oxytocin (the feel good hormone).
If you’re not naturally musical it might seem like a challenge to make up your own song. However, a starting point might be to think about the hopes and dreams you have for your child’s life. Once you have inspiration for some lyrics, try humming a little tune. You could also pick a tune from a well known lullaby or children’s song. Play around and have some fun. You might surprise yourself by creating a unique and very special lullaby that your child will always remember.
Obviously there are many reasons why babies cry and trying to pacify them with a lullaby won’t work if they are hungry or uncomfortable. But for most other times, lullabies are a tried and tested way to send your baby off to dreamland.