The traditional way to help babies fall off to sleep was to sing or hum a lullaby to them – there’s even a study conducted by a doctoral student from the Université de Montréal proving the efficiency of lullabies.
Lullabies help lull babies to sleep for three reasons: they help regulate the emotions of the baby or child, they work to foster a stronger bond between child and parent, and lullabies help establish a routine.
But studies by Great Ormond Street Hospital, set out to answer the question of whether it’s listening to live music that has this soothing effect, or the presence of an attentive adult – but what they also discovered was that lullabies ease pain and anxiety in children.
Thirty-seven patients under the age of three were involved – all with heart or respiratory problems. Each took part in three 10-minute sessions: one in which they were read to, one in which they were sung lullabies, and one in which they were left alone.
What the researchers discovered was “a significant decrease in heart rate and pain level” at the end of the session involving music.
Of course, rocking, a parents voice, and physical contact all have that reassuring, hypnotic relaxing effect on a baby but I was particularly interested in a comment from Tim Griffiths, a neurologist at the Wellcome Trust. “There’s an ancient part of the brain in the limbic system which is responsible for the emotional responses to music,” he said. “What I think is happening here is that the emotional part of the brain is being stimulated by music. This is decreasing the arousal level, and that in turn is affecting their pain response levels.”
Other benefits of singing lullabies to babies and children:
- Stimulate language
- Stimulate cognitive development
- Improves memory and attention span
- Teaches concepts such as days of the week
- Decreases stress levels and anxiety
- Introduces lullabies from around the world
Because music is intimately linked to culture, it makes sense that lullabies are not confined to just one culture so don’t feel self conscious about your singing voice – just hum, relax and enjoy soothing your little one by give them the gift of hearing your voice as their drift off into Dreamland.