Study reveals surprising benefits of singing lullabies to your unborn baby

The to-do list can seem endless when you are pregnant and the countdown is on for baby to arrive. There is the nursery to organise, plenty of things around the house to clean, a hospital bag to pack, car seat to install, pram to pick and countless other preparations.

And now we can add learning lullabies to the list.

The power of a lullaby

New research published in the journal Women and Birth: journal of the Australian College of Midwives, found babies spent a lot less time crying in their first few months after birth if their mothers sang lullabies to them before and after their arrival.

Beyond the sleep benefits, they also found the sweet serenades helped the mums and bubs bond better.

Mums to sing, sing, sing!

Researchers from the School of Medicine and Surgery, University of Milano Bicocca, Italy enlisted 168 women who were 24 weeks pregnant from antenatal classes and split them into two groups. The 83 expectant mums in the first group were instructed to sing their babies lullabies during the rest of their pregnancies and in the first few months that followed. The remaining 85 expectant mums were given no such instruction.

Results worth singing about

Acknowledging “mother–infant bonding is of great importance for the development and the well-being of the baby,” wrote the researchers and with that in mind, they set out “to investigate the effects of mothers singing lullabies on bonding, newborns’ behaviour and maternal stress”.

The results will have even the most tone deaf (that’s me) among us warming up their vocal chords. Babies who were serenaded by mum cried only 18.5 per cent of the time compared to the 28.2 per cent recorded for babies without song. Greater postnatal bonding was also recorded for the first group, along with less nightly awakenings in the first month after birth and a reduction in colic – even into their second month of life.

Benefits to mum

Perhaps due to all that extra sleep, researchers found singing mums recorded a lower level of perceived maternal stress – 29.6 per cent compared to 36.5 per cent. “Mothers singing lullabies could improve maternal-infant bonding. It could also have positive effects on neonatal behaviour and maternal stress,” the researchers concluded.

Personally, I welcomed the chance to relive my primary school choir glory days for an audience of one when I was pregnant with my little boy. After travelling a long road to conceive him, I found those quiet moments where I would hum a melody or belt out a song really helped me feel connected to the life I was growing. During moments of stress in pregnancy, singing helped me stay calm and I found the movement I could feel from bub as I sang really reassuring. And on the odd occasion when I was off key – okay so maybe more than occasionally – it didn’t matter.

Finding the perfect lullaby

The trick with picking the perfect song to sing to baby is not to overthink it. My go-to songs included. You are my Sunshine, Baby Mine (from the movie Dumbo), Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Lean on Me. My son still requests at least one of these songs most nights and has even begun practising them himself for when his little sister finally arrives.

Here are some others to consider:

  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Amazing Grace
  • Hush Little Baby
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Silent Night
  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Rock-A-Bye Baby

Twist a tune out of dad too!

The study may have focused on mum and her bond with baby but there is no reason dad can’t belt out a tune too. While I stuck to songs I knew fairly well – or was happy to fumble my way through – my husband printed out pages of lyrics or saved them to his phone to reference as he sang. What he started as a carefully chosen serenade to my bump before our son was born, now, four years on, has him cornered as the DJ to our son’s random musical requests – complete with demands for lyrics that have to be made up on the spot! “Sing Ollie is a fireman song Daddy, pleeease?!”

Do you already have a song you sing to your baby bump? Share it with us in the Facebook comments.


Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend