A woman holds a fretful baby. She nestles him close to her chest, sways rhythmically, and begins to croon a simple, repetitive tune in time to her movements. Her voice is soft, intimate; it rises and falls for the baby alone. Soon the baby relaxes against her, and as he slips into sleep, her singing slows, drops to a whisper and fades away…
It's a scene that could have taken place in any era, and in nearly any culture. Before white noise and heartbeat tapes, before crib-rocking devices and baby swings, mothers rocked and sang to their babies. And many parents still enjoy sharing music with their infants.
These days, the music is often recorded. Nevertheless, every family (or parent) has a special musical composition or song that they play to help comfort their baby. Walking the floor with your baby in your arms is a lot more enjoyable and easy when you have a pleasant song to keep you going. Music does nothing but make baby-soothing less like work and more like pleasure and researchers have discovered that babies too are responsive to music.
Babies absorb sound, speech and music very early, and when they are about 24 days old they can identify slight changes in rhythms; at one month, infants can recognize family members by their voices. A five-month-old baby recognized a musical composition as soon as they heard any part of it, after they have been exposed to it daily.
It’s a nicer option to actually sing to your baby as singing is used in work and play all over the world. It's pleasurable and has the power to bring people together, to be part of a bonding experience.
Singing to babies seems to come naturally to many people. Even when we talk to babies we alter our speech to make it more musical, isn’t it? We make our speech more rhythmic and repetitive, and we highlight pitch contours. Musicality makes the voice more emotionally expressive, and babies respond to this. There’s an advantage when you sing to him/her over recorded music - the personal connection. It not only makes the bond stronger, calms your baby but also helps the baby’s development.
Singing helps speech and of course crooning and chanting are closer to speech than to singing. Crooning and lullabies are important, for they give pleasure and a sense of security to the baby. In addition, they provide the first steps on your baby's long road in learning and will help her to speak and to understand speech.
But what if you just aren't a very good singer? Don’t worry about it. Our babies, they say, may be the only completely non-critical audience we'll ever get! They really do like you just the way you are, and many parents discover that with their babies, they can sing without any self consciousness - previously found only in the shower.
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