Do Lullabies Help Babies Sleep?

For many people, music is one of the unsolved mysteries of our world, stimulating the human mind in ways we are still learning about. This is why so many people in recent years have begun using music as a way to treat patients dealing with Alzheimer’s and other forms of degenerative illness, as music can help people access memories and other aspects of their personality that they might have already lost due to the illness.

However, it’s important to note that the healing benefits of music for the elderly are only part of the greater picture. In fact, music can also be a method to helping your baby, allowing them to feel comforted and encourage their development.

What music are we referring to? Lullabies, of course! Many people use lullabies as ways to get babies to sleep, but there is much more to baby sleep lullabies than you might think.

This is why we’re here to help clarify what exactly lullabies do and give you a list of some of the most classic lullabies for you to sing to your child.

What IS a baby Lullaby?

Though you are likely familiar with the purpose of a lullaby or examples of lullabies in pop culture, do you actually know what a baby sleep lullaby means and how to define one?

A lullaby is a word typically used to refer to a type of song that is meant A) for children and B) to be soothing. These two points are the main criteria for what constitutes a lullaby, having the genre itself be a very open-ended and abstract precedent. The word itself originates from the Hebrew phrase “Lilith-Abi” (“Lilith, begone” in English), a sentiment that references trying to ward off the demon Lilith from stealing babies in the middle of the night.

From this origin, the word came to be associated with the types of songs and melodies that would be able to put a baby to sleep, giving them soothing amounts of comfort. Since the goal is to make babies feel calm enough to fall asleep, lullabies usually focus on subject content about that very struggle, singing about the baby sleeping as a way of encouraging the baby to fall asleep.

Do babies like music and lullabies?

Musically, melodies used in baby sleep lullabies are very simple. From a technical standpoint, lullabies are almost always diatonic, meaning that if you were to put the song in C major, it would only fit on the white keys of the keyboard. Because songs that are diatonic use intervals that are considered very easy and natural, it’s easy for babies to pay attention and retain the information. Even for adults diatonic songs are easier to understand, being the main impetus for many commercial jingles and other songs that need to be catchy and capture one’s attention as quick as possible.

If a certain melody was to introduce too much dissonance or notes outside of the diatonic scale, a baby might lose interest and stop paying attention. This is because the baby’s mind can only pay attention to melodies of certain complexity. If the baby stops paying attention, you run the risk of not getting them to fall asleep due to their distraction keeping their brain active and subsequently not tired.

The 7 Most Famous Baby Sleep Lullabies

Like with many different types of music, the baby sleep lullabies that have stood the test of time and remained popular throughout the years are also the ones that have the most significant effects on children.

We’ve made a list of some of the most iconic baby sleep lullabies that are not only incredibly helpful for your baby to fall asleep to, but also to help them develop their way of communicating!

  • “Rock a Bye Baby”
  • “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
  • “The Alphabet Song”
  • “All of Me”
  • “Hush Little Baby”
  • “Frere Jacques”
  • “You Are My Sunshine”

What you should know about these lullabies:

Another important thing to note about baby sleep lullabies is that the lyrics often revolve around a comforting, but relentless image. A good example of this is the famous baby sleep lullaby “Rock a Bye Baby”. Throughout the song, the narrator is reassuring the baby that (no matter what happens) they will always be there for the baby, helping their cradle to rock gently.

However, an important part of this song lyrically is that there are so many different verses that it’s possible to continue singing the song for very long periods of time if you have to. This large amount of verses causes a repetitive effect that allows the baby’s mind to be stimulated in a similar way to other sleeping methods that adults might be used to.

For example, have you ever tried to count sheep at night to fall asleep? If you have, you’ve employed similar methods to classic baby sleep lullabies, using repetition as a way of meditation. By focusing on one thing at a time, the mind is able to calm down, re-focus and eventually find enough peace to sleep soundly.

The Rhythm of Baby Sleep Lullabies

The most important part of why baby sleep lullabies are so successful is that they have very specific rhythms that allow them to be matched perfectly with a rocking motion. This is typically represented by certain lullabies being in 3/4 or 6/8 time, both options being time signatures that are paired quite well with a rocking motion. This is how baby sleep lullabies have become incredibly intertwined with the act of rocking, with many of the lyrics also referencing the motion (i.e. the aforementioned famous “Rock a Bye Baby”).

The rhythm of baby sleep lullabies is reportedly the most important part of getting a baby to actually fall asleep, as the involved rocking motions make the baby feel comforted and reassured. The repetitive nature of rocking also stimulates the minds of the babies in a similar way to the lyrics of lullabies, allowing them to feel calm and tired through stimulation. Rocking a baby also gives them the warmth and security that comes with being swaddled or hugged by their caretaker, making the action all the more comforting.

This is why baby sleep lullabies can be so effective, as they continually engage multiple aspects of a baby’s senses so they’re able to fall asleep much quicker than they might on their own.

Baby Sleep Lullabies During Pregnancy

Baby sleep lullabies are wonderful, but you don’t have to wait until your baby is actually born for you to introduce them to the concept! To make sure your baby is familiar with soothing music as a means of relaxation from early on, you should play relaxing music for your baby in late stages of pregnancy. This can be anything from traditional lullabies to relaxing ambient music, so feel free to adjust our recommendations to your specific taste in music!

It’s also recommended that you play soothing music or lullabies for your baby up until three months after they are born, giving them plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the soothing sounds. It’s also said that singing lullabies to your baby during the late stages of pregnancy can be another great way of calming them, as they will become more interested in and acquainted with their caretaker’s voice from early on.

Babies Grow From Interaction

Another benefit of baby sleep lullabies is that the constant exchange of singing to your baby in a way that is simple enough for them to grasp actually encourages them to grow their own understanding of communication. This is why you might notice that your baby starts to babble in response to your singing—they’re trying to tell you something!

Conclusion

Singing lullabies to your baby can be one of the most effective ways of getting them to go to sleep each night. However, there are also many other benefits possible that also help encourage your baby’s overall development and growth. This is why we believe they are an incredibly important activity that every parent should engage in with their child. We hope this blog post has been helpful for you understanding the many different benefits of lullabies and how they can affect a baby’s overall growth!