Babies and Music

By Elizabeth Pantley

Mothers have always crooned their babies to sleep with lullabies, fathers have sung nursery rhymes to their toddlers, and families have made folk music a part of everyday life. Why? Because music is calming, music facilitates language development, and most of all, music is enjoyable for both parents and children.


Studies have shown that even within the womb, a baby responds to music and melody. Hearing is fully developed by the third trimester, and when a fetus hears a tune repeatedly, she will recognise and feel comforted by that tune after her birth. If classical music is played for premature babies, their heart rates slow down and their breathing steadies, showing that the music helps to relieve stress. For your upset baby, music can serve the very practical purpose of calming her down.

Here are some ideas for how to introduce your baby to singing and music:

  • When your baby is upset, hold her close to you, sing to her, and dance and sway with the music. The combination of close body contact, movement, and music can do wonders to soothe a crying baby.
  • Play a variety of different types of music to see how your baby reacts. When she is upset or sleepy, she may respond to lullabies. When she is cheerful, she may love to dance to your favorite songs with you. When she is quiet and alert, she may like to listen to classical, jazz or instrumental music.
  • Sing to songs or lullabies you remember from your childhood. Your baby doesn’t care whether you are completely tone deaf or an opera star, just as long as she hears the comforting sound of your voice. Recorded music has its place, of course, but be sure to also give your baby the gift of your own experience with music.
  • Use music to let your baby know what is happening and to establish comforting routines:
    • Put on the same calming music every time you prepare to give your baby a massage;
    • Sing the same lullaby every night as you put your baby to bed;
    • Play music in the car and sing along so that your baby learns it is fun to go places in the car;
    • When you are about to change her diaper, turn on the musical mobile near the changing table;
    • Put on some relaxing music during your baby’s bath;
    • Play your favourite songs during the “fussy hour.”
  • Enjoy music yourself. Not only is music comforting for your baby, it is also very calming for you. Whether you are singing a song to your crying baby, or dancing around the kitchen trying to soothe a colicky newborn, music can help soothe your jangled nerves as well as your baby’s.
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