I love to sing. I always have. When I was little, I used to prance around my parent’s living room, singing along with The B-52s, The Bangles, Belinda Carlisle, or The Moody Blues (usually wearing bright pink rouge with a matching pink tutu). Years later, I continued to sing in the school choir and in community musicals (but, alas, the tutu is gone).
In my adult life, my audiences have been much different, usually bar-goers at the Friday night karaoke scene…that was until I had my son (people tend to look down on you if you bring a four-month-old into a tavern). Now, my audience is down to one: Theo.
And. It. Is. Awesome.
Theo loves my singing. He will kick his feet and smile (seriously, he is the best audience I’ve ever had…my “biggest fan”). Singing to a baby can really make you feel like a rock star.
Now, if you feel self-conscious about your own singing voice — don’t. While I would like to think that Theo likes the sound of my voice (I’m no Mariah Carey, but I do have a some talent), that isn’t necessarily the case. Babies do not care whether you have mastered your crescendos, have excellent pitch, or can execute a perfect aria. Really, they care about how “happy” you sound.
A journal published in 2013 by Frontiers in Psychology discusses an experiment that explored the difference between infant reactions to singing and to speech. The experiment yielded the following result: “happy voice quality rather than vocal mode (speech or singing) was the principal contributor to infant attention.”
The experiment also stated that infants “exhibited greater attention to…speech syllables than to the hummed lullabies” due to the fact that the speeches had “greater acoustic variability and expressiveness” than lullabies.
So, what does this mean? It means that it doesn’t matter what you sing as long as you sound happy and vary your tunes.
And, not only will your singing captivate your baby, it is a great form of bonding. In Daisy Fancourt’s and Rosie Perkins’ article “The effects of mother–infant singing on emotional closeness, affect, anxiety, and stress hormones” they stated that “mother–infant singing is… associated with greater increases in positive affect and greater decreases in negative affect as well as greater decreases in both psychological and biological markers of anxiety.”
Less anxiety? Happy baby? I’m so there!
But wait, there’s more!
As babies get older, singing can also help develop their speech. Additionally, it can build motor skills when accompanied by actions (think “Itsy Bitsy Spider”), “help ease the children into learning the daily rhythms and routines” and it can build “mental muscles as toddlers practice listening and storing in memory the rhyming couplets or verses in songs” (Sterling Honig).
Overall, singing to your baby (whether you consider yourself good or bad) can lessen anxiety, increase bonding, and help your baby build a variety of skills. Sounds pretty good, right?
So, what should you sing? Our good friend Google can give you a plethora of baby songs to try, but really, the answer is anything you want.
Singing to your child is a personal experience between the two of you — so make it personal. Like to belt out a few tunes from System of Down? Do it! Want to practice your falsetto with a couple Justin Timberlake songs? Great! Maybe you prefer to share your passion for Tuvan throat singing. Fantastic!
You. Do. You.
You don’t even have to sing “real” songs. Personally, I like to make up songs about getting into the bath, putting on pajamas, or changing his diaper — I find it distracts him if he’s acting a bit cranky (sometimes… I’d be lying if I said it was 100%).
But there are, however, a few songs that I really like to sing to my son when we are getting ready for bed. Just for fun, I have shared my top four songs.
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?’s “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” aka “Go to Sleep Little Baby”
The repeated lines “Go to sleep little baby” stuck in my head anytime I tried to put Theo down for a nap. (No surprise that it’s the siren’s song, am I right?) Now, it’s a staple for our bedtime routine.
Disney’s “Once Upon a Dream”
If you know me, this would not be a surprise (my parents have videos of me singing this when I was little… and over 20 years later, I’m still singing it). Regardless of my mixed feelings towards old Disney movies, I still love this song.
Celtic Women “Isle Of Inisfree”
Okay, I seriously LOVE Celtic Women. I grew up listening to them. On holiday, my mom would play their CD in the early morning, gently rousing my sisters and I from our slumbers. Choosing only one song for this list was difficult (“She Moved Through the Fair” was a close second), but I found this one to be my go-to each night.
Billy Joel “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
This one is has a gentle tune with an easy melody. It does, however, have lyrics that are a bit on the sad side. Not because they are about loss (seriously, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” makes me cry every time), but because it reminds us that our babies will grow and leave, but that they will “always be a part” of us.
If you like singing, then this is a no-brainer. If you don’t like singing, don’t feel like you have to sing to your kid. Besides, infant directed singing “appears just as effective as book reading or toy play in sustaining infant attention.” Still, you might find that you like it once you see how your baby reacts. And that sweet smile, spread across your baby’s face as you both build an appreciation for music, will make you melt.