Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us

January 2024

Tender Tunes: How Lullabies Help Babies and Families Thrive

Rock-a-bye, little one. Across cultures and from ancient to modern times, parents and caregivers have sung babies to sleep—for good reason.

Lullabies hold meaning in their melodies. They’re signals, sent from parent or caregiver to child, letting the infant know they’re attended to and protected.

That’s not all: A recent research review looked back at 21 studies of the sweet songs and found benefits for both babies and mothers.

Helpful harmonies

Crooning to your child calms and soothes them. It helps regulate their emotions and it may help improve their attention. Music may boost brain development, and may even begin to teach language.

Lullabies sung by a mother can even reduce babies’ pain responses from getting their shots. For premature newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit, mothers’ songs may stabilize heart rate and breathing, and encourage them to eat more.

Singing can also relieve parents’ stress. And it helps you feel successful in meeting your infant’s needs. As a result, your well-being—plus your bond to your baby—may grow.

Make your lullabies sing

Compared with adult tunes, the songs we sing to infants typically have:

  • A higher pitch

  • A loving tone  

  • Longer pauses between phrases

Babies prefer these types of songs to more grown-up music, at least until they reach about a year old.

Popular examples include “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “Hush Little Baby.” But what’s most important is to choose the song that feels right to you.

You can start singing to your child before birth—research shows babies can hear while in the womb. 

Lullabies aren’t only for bedtime: You can sing to your baby in the bathtub, while changing their diaper, or at any other time. Don’t worry if you don’t think you have a good voice. Your love will come through loud and clear, even if you’re out of tune.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Contact Our Health Professionals
Follow Us
The health content and information on this site is made possible through the generous support of the Haspel Education Fund.
StayWell Disclaimer