Why Do Lullabies Put Babies To Sleep?
Do you sing a lullaby to your baby before bedtime? Ever wondered why babies sleep to it? Also, apart from helping your baby to sleep better, singing to your baby has other benefits. Find out!
By Team ParentCircle • 9 min read
New mom Sangeetha dreads bedtime these days. Her six-month-old son gets cranky and cries a lot when he is sleepy, and struggles to sleep. Sangeetha tried everything – from giving him a warm bath before bedtime, to dressing him up in light, comfortable sleepwear – but nothing seems to work. Then her mother suggested to her to sing lullabies – a tried and tested way to make babies nod off! So, every night she started singing some lullabies to her baby and surprisingly her son calms down and sleeps more peacefully now.
Three-year-old Abhishek, almost always got up in the middle of the night screaming as he experienced frequent nightmares. Then, his mother, Radha, began singing lullabies regularly to him just before bedtime. Eventually, his nightmares reduced and he now sleeps longer and better.
Benefits of lullabies
Since time immemorial, lullabies are there in every culture and every language. Around the world, mothers sing lullabies to her child to soothe and calm. Some prefer to sing before putting the child to bed while others sing a lullaby at any time of the day to calm a child.
Ipsita Sarma, mother of two says, "I still vividly remember the way my mother used to sing us a soothing Bengali lullaby about children roaming around in the fields, collecting fallen fruits and looking at colourful birds. Now, I am raising two kids of my own, but in a city where there are no fruit orchards for children to roam. Still, I make it a point to sing to them the same lullabies my mother used to sing and they simply love it."
There is scientific research to back that lullabies help a child emotionally. According to a research paper submitted by (Zentner and Eerola in 2010), “Parental songs arguably provide the most salient musical experiences in early life. By five months of age, infants produce rhythmic movements in response to auditory rhythms. These perceptual and production skills set the stage for socially rich musical experiences, which have implications for social bonding and emotional regulation in infancy.”
In yet another study in 2007 by La´szlo´Harmat, Johanna Taka´cs & Ro´bert Bo´dizs also revealed that music improves the quality of sleep in students.
Benefits of sleep for babies
Good sleep is a must for a baby to grow healthy. So, anything that helps a baby to sleep through the night is a boon for parents. Lack of sleep in children is linked to many health complications at a later stage. It could lead to potentially dangerous conditions like obesity, depression, diabetes and ADHD. Even the immunity of the child can become poorer if he is not getting enough sleep.
To know more about the impact of lullabies on a child, ParentCircle talks to Dr Atish Laddad, Founder and Director at Docterz. Here are the excerpts:
Do lullabies really help babies to sleep? How do they work?
Lullabies have a deep comforting impact on the babies and help them sleep comfortably. Their soothing and calm nature helps the baby relax and enjoy uninterrupted sleep. How it works effectively from time immemorial is very interesting. Reports suggest that lullabies have a six to eight tempo or a triple metre in the language of music, which is similar to the motion experienced by the foetus in the womb. As this womb experience is familiar for the baby, it adjusts quite well to the sound of a lullaby from a mom.
Lullabies are a good tool to calm down on-the-edge parents too as it minimises the stress experienced by new parents and lulls them down too.
Are there different benefits of lullabies for different age groups?
Music has a positive impact on each and everyone, irrespective of the child being baby, toddler, preschooler or for that matter even an adult. The soothing nature of lullabies first de-stresses the child and then calms them toward a comforting environment. It has been proven that music makes children happier, and helps them come out of their shell and communicate well with others. It also aids kids to learn and understand languages and have an improved attention span and sharp memory.
Lullabies help balance the emotions through certain neural connections and create an environment for a peaceful bedtime. This also strengthens the bond between the child and the parents.
Can you use recorded lullabies or online lullabies instead of singing yourself? Is it equally effective?
While it’s a good option to use recorded lullabies and online lullabies instead of singing yourself, it is only an option and is recommended to be used only during times of need. The connect that parents have with the child has to be developed naturally as this is the way the baby explores and knows more about her caregivers. And singing in your own voice is part of that process
Lullabies and pre-mature babies
Lullabies have a positive impact on the child’s health. It has been proven that lullabies help in improving the oxygen levels in the body and thus help set the breathing patterns. It works well to reduce the occurrence of nightmares in children too.
Also, in case of premature babies, lullabies help in improved respiratory working, low-stress levels and low impact on the heart movements.
Here is a nice traditional Gujrati lullaby shared with ParentCircle by Grammy nominee Falu Shah.
Do bear in mind that lullabies have been handed down from generation to generation orally, especially in India. Most of the lullabies have beautiful lyrics about the moon, the stars, the tender relationship between a mother and newborn, and so forth. Lullabies are part of folk traditions. So you are not just singing and making your baby sleeps but are keeping an oral art alive.
So, practise your vocal chords tonight while helping your child get some sleep! You need not be a great singer or even a good singer to sing a pleasing song to your munchkin, because your voice is the best voice for your baby and he will love it anyway.
Are your childhood memories entwined with some soothing lullabies sung to you by your mother? Do share those lullabies and memories with us. Better still record it and send it to us, we would love to share it with the world.
About the author:
Written by Team ParentCircle on 27 June 2019.
About the expert:
This article is reviewed and validated by Dr Atish Laddad, Founder and Director at Docterz.
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