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What to Know About Lullabies

Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 04, 2022

Music has proven effects on our brains from childhood till adulthood. During the first couple of months after birth, the brain processes music in specialized areas. It helps the baby connect, communicate, move, relax, coordinate, and feel pleasure. 

Lullabies calm down babies and put them to sleep. It is a soothing song with the perfect balance of rocking music that lures the baby into sleep. Nursery rhymes have been a time-tested bedtime routine by parents over the years. 

What Is a Lullaby?

A lullaby is a calming song used to relax a baby and lull them to sleep. These songs have different ancient origins, but most include modern music. Parents have included lullabies in their child's bedtime routine for years. 

A lullaby is generally based on a 6/8 time signature with a gentle, rhythmic melody. It also includes repetitive lyrics to make the child accustomed to the song. Lullabies come in different languages around the world.

How Do Babies React to Lullabies?

Research conducted at Harvard's Music Lab experimented with American infants with lullabies in different languages and unfamiliar melodies. They found that the babies reacted to universal parts of the lullabies in unfamiliar language and tune. The infants were also relaxed.

The researchers made each child watch an animated video of two characters singing. Then, they evaluated the infants' responses to these videos based on several relaxation indicators. These included pupil dilation, heart rate, blinking frequency, and electrodermal activity (a feeling of pleasure from the skin's electrical resistance).

The findings showed that the babies had decreased heart rates, dilated pupils, and reduced electrodermal activity to the unfamiliar lullabies. This showed that singing to a baby has special psychological effects that can put them to sleep.

What Are the Benefits of Singing to a Baby?

Babies learn how to differentiate between sounds and melodies from a very early stage. They can also recognize different melodies and characters from a video. Infants can also manipulate an object with specific lyrics and songs.

Singing to a baby has several benefits. The three most common ones include:

Calms Babies and Puts Them to Sleep. Lullabies calm and relax crying babies. They help the child express their emotions in a better way instead of anger. When babies have improved sleep, they stay happy, active, and more engaged in activities. 

Stimulates Language Development. Your kid listens and learns different languages and new vocabulary from lullabies. This develops strong language and literacy skills in them at a tender age. The baby may also start speaking early.

Strengthens the Bond Between a Parent and Child. Singing to a baby has deeper effects on your relationship with your child. If you are singing a lullaby to your baby in their bedtime routine, it's better to create a song on your own. Include lyrics that show emotions and one-on-one communication with your baby. Regularly listening to a personal lullaby will help the baby be more close to you.

You can also make your baby listen while it's still in utero. Some healthcare experts suggest using the same lullabies to familiarize the baby with the melody even before they are born. So when the baby comes into this world, the parent won't have trouble getting them familiarized with a song. 

What are Some Famous Lullaby Songs?

Many parents sing nursery rhymes to their babies, but you can be creative with your lullabies. Every country has different melodies, lyrics, and meanings behind lullabies. So, you can choose any of them. 

Some famous lullaby baby songs are: 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

This is a classic nursery rhyme that has been a favorite of American children since the late 1800s. It is a fun and easy-to-learn song with short verses. The melody has repetitive lyrics that create a calming rhythm to put your little one to sleep.  

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

This nursery rhyme is the most iconic English language lullaby. Its origin also dates back to the 1800s. The song's theme revolves around the beauty of a star shining in the night sky. The lullaby is famous even today. It is a short, easy, and sweet poem with a calming melody that lulls your child to sleep immediately. 

Rock-a-Bye Baby

This nursery rhyme is from the 1700s, originally known as "hush-a-bye baby." Soon the song became a classic lullaby for babies. It has short verses that are soothing, easy to remember, and soft. 

Hush, Little Baby

It is a rhythmic lullaby that originated from a classic American folk song in the 1900s. The couplets of this lullaby are perfectly synced and talk about gifts given to a baby. The melody is playful and joyful but soothing enough to instantly put your baby to sleep. This lullaby also has a simple lyrics structure that you can quickly learn and sing to your child every day. 

How Should You Sing Lullabies to Your Baby?

Lullabies help calm your baby and stimulate their learning and behavioral development. The following tips will help you sing lullabies to your newborn:

  • Choose repetitive lyrics. Lullabies with repetitive lyrics work more effectively. Try to allocate a standard time for lullabies for your child and be regular. You can also choose a few songs with similar lyrics and melodies and sing them to your baby at the same time each night.
  • Be soft and gentle. Try to lower the volume of your voice to make it softer and calmer, but don't kill the fun. Maintain a balance between excitement and relaxation in your voice when singing to your baby.
  • Create a personalized lullaby. You can use real-life characters and images in your lullabies to make them more relatable to your child. Most songs are from centuries ago. So observe your baby's interest elements and sing like you're talking to them.
  • Make it playful. If your child is in the mood for fun, don't make the lullaby too boring for them. Instead, engage them with fun elements, such as a furry stuffed animal or your pet. You can act out sleeping and yawning motions with your baby's favorite toy to lull them to sleep.

Lullabies are likely to send your baby off to sleep within a few minutes. If you still struggle to calm down your crying and fussy baby, it's better to take help from a medical professional to diagnose any underlying issue.

Show Sources

SOURCES:
Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center: "Benefits of Lullabies for Babies," "Infant/Toddler Hearing Checklist."
Harvard Gazette: "Research shows lullabies in any language relax babies."
Sleep.org: "What Are the Best Lullabies for Kids?"

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