Why Do Lullabies Work?

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With proven abilities to calm nerves, evoke emotions and trigger memories, music offers many therapeutic qualities. From recent discoveries for therapy with elderly dementia patients to the tried-and-true soothing of lullabies for newborns, Music Therapy creates an inviting environment for all ages.

“We’re trying to reach non-musical goals through music,” Tony Medeiros, music therapist at IU Health, said. “We can work on limb weakness with a tambourine or sing a song that helps with pronunciation issues. It also helps with relaxation. Favorite songs can help you relax and occupy your mind.”

But why do lullabies work so well to calm babies and infants?

The music of a lullaby alone sets a soothing mood for infants. However, the real power of the lullaby comes from the combination of rocking and singing.

“Hearing soft, rhythmic songs brings a sense of calmness and security to the sensitive infant,” Education.com reports. “Besides soothing an infant, rocking and singing helps the infant become accustomed to the ‘feelings’ of sound motion. Without this type of gentle introduction to music, many infants will continue to react with a startle to sudden movement and loud sounds and noises.”

Lullabies also set the stage for a caregiver to communicate safety and calm to the baby. In response, the baby may coo or babble, encouraging speech development.

Pick a song, any song and turn into a lullaby. Jack Johnson did it. John Lennon did it. You can do it, too. And, of course, there are classic lullabies that have been sung for centuries, like Rock-a-Bye Baby. Perhaps your taste leans more toward modern music. Ample amounts of albums and online playlists feature well-known rock songs and contemporary tunes transformed into lullabies. Inspiration for your next lullaby won’t be hard to find to play or sing a song to create a tailored bonding experience with your infant.

Learn more about newborn care through the Riley at IU Health blog.

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