The Benefits of Singing to Babies
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How do you calm an upset baby? We all know the answer—you rock him, coo and hush him, and—if you’re like most people—you sing to him.
Singing to babies is one of those habits that transcends cultures. Across the world, parents sing to babies and babies respond, even when they’re in the womb.
Why is Singing to Babies Important?
Singing may well be the first language lesson we give children, and according to some researchers, we aren’t doing it enough. Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, believes we put too much emphasis on developing reading, writing, and number recognition, and not enough on singing, as singing to babies reduces the risk of language problems in later life.
As for babies themselves, they start developing the ability to process sound at about twenty-five weeks. Dutch and Hungarian researchers determined day-old infants can identify rhythmic patterns. We’re born with the ability to appreciate singing.
How we sing to babies is also important. Even when we talk to infants we use a sing-song voice. When we’re singing to babies, we raise the pitch of our voices and sing at a slower than normal tempo. The emotional quality of our voice also rises, and we rock or move softly, usually while maintaining eye contact with the baby.
This kind of singing is called infant-directed singing, and it has several benefits. Singing to infants strengthens the bond between parent and child, and helps regulate the baby’s arousal level—it’s sense of awareness and attention. By altering the baby’s mood, singing may help with feeding and sleeping, which in turn positively affect the infant’s growth and development.
But I Can’t Sing!
Okay, so perhaps you’re never going to be an American Idol finalist, but that really doesn’t matter. You’re singing to your baby, not Simon Cowell, and your baby loves the sound of your voice and the attention you’re giving her.
As for what you sing, it doesn’t matter either. Nursery rhymes and personalized children’s songs are well-suited to “infant-directed singing” because they’re designed for children, but if you softly croon an Elvis ballad or the latest love song, baby will be just as happy. In fact, baby will prefer your voice to recorded music. So take that Beyoncé! You’ve got one fan who wouldn’t swap your singing for the world.