Musical Mondays: Lullabies

As infants, some of our first and fondest memories of music are of a loving parent singing a familiar lullaby to us as they rocked us to sleep. It provided us with a sense of security, calmness and love. Since response to sound is one of the most highly developed abilities in a newborn, it is important for infants to be nurtured musically. And lullabies are the perfect opportunity for physical and emotional attachment.

Lullabies have a magic to them that seems to easily sooth babies who are fussy and tired. Babies tend to respond best to songs that are familiar to them. They love what they know. So repetition is key when introducing your little one to their favorite lullaby. While I was still pregnant with Harper, a close friend and mentor of mine suggested that at six months in utero I begin to sing Harper a lullaby. So for the months leading up to her birth, we would sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to her as often as we could. Once Harper was born she was easily soothed by this song, as it was familiar to her and would remind her of the comfort and security that she felt in my womb.

Besides using lullabies to sooth an infant, rocking and singing to music helps infants become accustomed to the feelings of sound and motion. This type of gentle introduction to music helps to reduce babies natural reaction to startle due to sudden movement and loud noises or sounds. In addition, gentle rocking to the pulse of the music helps to instill that sense of the steady beat.

Another benefit of lullabies is the communication that occurs between parent and baby. It is not uncommon for an infant to respond directly to the singer by cooing and babbling, thus encouraging the development of speech and singing. In a recent conversation that I had with my dad, he recalled a special moment that he says he will never forget. When I was a baby, my dad used to rock me to sleep and sing me a litany of lullabies. One night, in the middle of one of our favorite lullabies, I began to sing along with him. I was still fairly young and had yet to say my first word, but I began to accompany him in perfect pitch as we engaged in an unexpected duet. Now that I have become a mother myself, and have experienced this with my own daughter, I can truly say, it is one of the most rewarding moments of my life. There is nothing sweeter than singing a lullaby with your baby.

Unfortunately, so many parents feel inadequate in making music on their own. They are insecure about the quality of their singing voices and as a result are ashamed to even attempt to sing to or with their children. But when it comes to singing to your children, the good news is, regardless if you can sing in tune not, they think you have the most beautiful voice in the world. What is most important is that you sing to your baby.

At the end of each of my music classes, I like to sing a few lullabies with my students and their parents. I enjoy it best when families share their own traditional lullabies with us. It becomes a wonderful opportunity for a cross-cultural musical experience and is a great way for all of us to learn a few new songs.

Having a small repertoire of favorites lullabies is a great tool to have in your back pocket. You never know when you might need to bust out a tune in the middle of the grocery store to calm your tired or fussy baby. But don’t feel limited to singing only music that is labeled “lullabies”. Try singing contemporary songs or show tunes. This is a great time to introduce your baby to lots of different styles of music. Remember, they love what they know, so repetition is key, especially with familiar recorded music and lullabies.

So go ahead and explore Pandora or iTunes and stock up on a short list of songs that you can easily memorize. Because one day, that memory you have of your parent singing you to sleep, will become their own.

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8 thoughts on “Musical Mondays: Lullabies

  1. It was a moment that will live in me forever…that and when Uncle Mark and Siedah sang it for our ‘Daddy Daughter’ dance at your wedding…in fact…your blog today had inspired my blog today…Thank you…

    I love you

    Dad

  2. I have had my daughter in music classes from her infant days to now…she’s 5. It always bothers me when parents take their kids to class but yet have a hard time letting go and participating themselves. It takes a good teacher to bring the best out of the parent..and you sound like a great one! Nice post.

  3. Marcee says:

    Music is everything for children. It’s like a miracle drug!

    When we were little babies/kids …. (I was maybe 1, 2 & 3) our daddy would sing us songs + holding us. Always standing and rocking us babes too. Such a great comfort when I look back on those times. I REMEMBER!! Definitely helped all of us to fall back asleep to dreamland.

    My mother-in-law was a great teacher also. Her method for cranky/very sleepy (or any) babies = back massages!! Wow …. they work wonders. Babies love gentle strokes when sick or well.

    We have so many lullabye tapes, cd’s in this household. Last year I gave at least 25 to my niece. She is a new mommy!

    • inherchucks says:

      I love that music has had such a positive impact on your life. And that you are passing on that tradition to the next generation. Thank you for sharing your joyful memories :)

  4. christiana83 says:

    I am home alone most of the day with my 4-month old daughter, and I find myself singing to her constantly! For everything and anything. Songs I didn’t even know I knew have started popping into my head. I also practice EC, and have a couple of potty songs I sing. Well anyways, she seems to be developing her verbal skills really well, and I think she has started “singing” too.. It sounds more like a long drawn out scream, but it’s happy, and goes from low to high pitched, or vice versa. It’s hilarious! I love listening to her sing along with me even though it sounds so completely chaotic! Lol

    • inherchucks says:

      You are giving your daughter such a gift. Music is a universal language that all our babies speak fluently. Sounds like your daughter is responding to your modeling of singing to her. I am glad you are encouraging this in her. There is no sweeter sound than hearing our little ones sing :) And I agree, singing is a great pre-cursor to verbal skills. Most of the words Harper uses are words she has learned in the songs we sing :)

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