Your baby’s education starts when she is still nestled in your womb as she listens to you talk, the beating of your heart and the songs you sing. Mothers traditionally sang for their unborn babies, and told them the happenings of the day. These ancient mothers were on to something, as science now shows: babies are able to perceive the external environment when still in the womb, and react to this.
In fact, babies as young as three days old can recognise their mom’s voices from their time in the womb and tend to show a preference for this familiar voice over others.
According to a study published by Hasan and Nadide Günes, “The Effects of Lullabies on Children”, published in International Journal of Business and Social Science, lullabies are rhymed and harmonious words, in the form of poetry and prose. Traditionally, lullabies are used to soothe the baby and send her off to sleep. “A mother’s singing a lullaby while rocking her baby in a soft and harmonious tone is a tradition of our culture that has its roots in very ancient times. Within this tradition, there is also the mother’s unique kind of managing her voice by softening, rising, hardening, fastening or slowing it just according to the situation of the child at that moment. In this way, the mother is in fact directing her baby with the tone of her voice,” say the researchers.
Research, conducted by Colwyn Trevarthen, professor of child psychology at the University of Edinburgh, has found that babies are fluent in the language of music. They have a fantastic sense of rhythm and respond to music on both an emotional and physical level. A study, published in The Psychology of Music has found that lullabies help lower your baby’s heart rate and reduces anxiety and can minimise her perception of pain.
Interestingly, recorded lullabies don’t have the same effect as those being sung. Lullabies have a gentle, hypnotic and repetitive rhythm, which is believed to be reminiscent of being in-utero.
Commenting on the study, Tim Griffiths, a neurologist at the Wellcome Trust says: “There’s an ancient part of the brain in the limbic system which is responsible for the emotional responses to music. 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.”
So, whether off-key or not, sing to your baby – she will thank you for it…
Benefits of singing a lullaby
According to the research done by Hasan and Nadide Günes, the scientific benefit of lullabies include the following:
- Sudden movements and loud voices can frighten your baby, her blood pressure rises and heart beats faster. A lullaby has a soothing effect, bringing the blood pressure and heart rate back to normal quickly.
- The language of lullabies are simple and fluent. Children are able to comprehend the words been sung quickly, learn and understand them, which helps with language development as she grows.
- A child that grows up listening to lullabies has a healthier communication with her mother.
- When your baby communicates with you through lullabies, it stimulates the brain. As long as you keep singing or speaking, the related perception centres of the brain remain stimulated, which in turn impacts development and language formation.
- The words in lullabies convey wishes, desires and love, which in turn boosts your child’s subconscious in a positive way.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.